By Tom BudzynaMay 15, 2009
SCHINNEN, Netherlands Aca,!" Nearly 150 students from the AFNORTH International High School and Geilenkirchen Elementary School crossed borders and cultures to celebrate Eco Day here May 15.
A special community event organized by USAG Schinnen, Eco Day was an action-packed day of skits, information booths, and recognition of students and teachers for promoting the eventAca,!a,,cs Aca,!A"green generationAca,!A? theme.
Several months in planning, Eco Day brought an international pool of talent together to educate students about protecting resources today so they are available for generations to come. Students from each of three grades also competed in a poster contest, and the winning posters, and the winning students artful interpretation of the Green Generation, can be viewed in an Army.mil slide show here.
Aca,!A"It was a great Aca,!Eoeout-of-bookAca,!A? experience for the children,Aca,!A? said Mary Vasko-Kingma, the 6th grade teacher for Geilenkirchen Elementary School.
This is the first year that Geilenkirchen students were able to attend and the garrison hopes to add more schools to next yearAca,!a,,cs program.
Aca,!A"I liked the integration of students. In addition to the Aca,!Eoegreen generationAca,!a,,c theme, the children are able to see how environmental sustainability is connected to our society, to our cultures and to our future,Aca,!A? Vasko-Kingma said.
The AFNORTH International High School is located in Brunssum, Netherlands, and the Elementary School is located on the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. USAG Schinnen typically reaches across borders to promote a sense of community and, for this event, send a message of environmental sustainability.
Aca,!A"Our goal, of course, is to promote an ethic to take care of what we have today so itAca,!a,,cs available in the future, but the interactive booths, learning how waste is recycled; the whole day was lots of fun. We consider all students future leaders and there were valuable lessons to learn today,Aca,!A? said Robert Mackson, USAG Schinnen Director of Public Works.
Students participating in Eco Day 2009 learned about USAG SchinnenAca,!a,,cs Aca,!A"Separate or Recycle TrashAca,!A? (SORT) Center, where trash is separated into Aca,!Eoewaste streamsAca,!a,,c for proper disposal.
Ray Bryant, USAG SchinnenAca,!a,,cs Hazardous Waste Manager, explained to students that recycling is just as much a lifestyle as it is, in many places, the law.
Aca,!A"Tell you parents about our SORT center,Aca,!A? Bryant said, we can do the right thing with your trash and you can help,Aca,!A? Bryant said.
Year round, more so when families are moving in or out, incidents of dumping increase.
A Feb. 28 special report entitled Aca,!A"Talking RubbishAca,!a,,c in Economist magazine describes that when citizens are encouraged to participate in community trash collection efforts that they tend to collect the waste but dump it in the wrong place.
Aca,!A"We understand why dumping occurs,Aca,!A? says Bryant, Aca,!A"but there isnAca,!a,,ct a good excuse for it. We have a first class SORT Center and throughout the Benelux area there are proper ways, and laws, for disposing trash. People simply need to take the time to do the right thing. If anyone has questions, please call me,Aca,!A? says Bryant. His number is DSN 360-7437 or civilian +31(0)46-443-7437.
The SORT Center accepts just about anything and a phone call can confirm when and how to properly dispose of batteries, electronics, oil, paint, carpets, bricks, porcelain, all types of plastic, garden waste, wood and old clothes and shoes. If you happen to be assigned outside the Netherlands, a phone call can still point you in the right direction. Aca,!A"Bottom line,Aca,!A? says Bryant, Aca,!A"we need to do the right thing.Aca,!A?
Be resourceful and thrifty
The Eco Day program introduced students to the Delta Project, a Netherlands initiative following deadly floods in 1953. It is said that God created the heavens and earth Aca,!" but the Dutch created the Netherlands! This saying grows from the engineering feat accomplished by the Dutch to tame the North Sea and enable cities to flourish where oceans would otherwise.
Much of the Netherlands is below sea level. These areas are kept dry by a network of waterways and canals. In addition to channeling the water, they create a flourishing natural habitat.
The Eco Day program included a talk by Schinnen Thrift Shop personnel whoAca,!a,,cll promote the idea of selling unwanted items instead of throwing them away, or to buy an item second hand and save both money and the burden on our environment to produce something new. Outside the gates of USAG Schinnen, if you havenAca,!a,,ct discovered RD4 shops, you need to!
The Eco Day program taught students where power comes from and how to conserve it. Netherlands utility companies reduce the rates of electricity on the weekends as an incentive to use washing machines and dryers then to avoid competing with the higher demands for electrical power during the work week.
Aca,!A"Throughout USAG Schinnen,Aca,!A? says Mackson, Aca,!A"we use timers, sensors and low wattage light bulbs to reduce electrical use and the U.S. governmentAca,!a,,cs utility bill. This is something we can also do at home.Aca,!A?
Incandescent light bulbs are going away. The European Union will phase-out incandescent bulbs by 2012. The United States will do the same by 2014 (this generally effects light bulbs of 40 to 150 watts).
Low watt bulbs are costly, but their prices are falling and they last longer. Some low-watt bulbs offer daylight and ionizing features. Instead of looking at light bulbs as something we throw away, they are keepsakes. Something we bring from place to place, just like furniture, or something to re-sell at a thrift shop.
Our earth, our responsibility
The Eco Day program introduced students to the Schinnen Pond, home to a wide variety of plants, animals and insects. Some of the flora and fauna there is protected by USAG Schinnen in accordance with U.S. and European laws.
Aca,!A"An interesting aspect of managing U.S. government facilities,Aca,!A? says Mackson, Aca,!A"is that we must sustain what we have so we can live, work and train today and in the future. When we discover rare and endangered flora, fauna or landmarks Aca,!" weAca,!a,,cre obligated to take care of it.Aca,!A?
The ArmyAca,!a,,cs Cultural Resources Management Program helps protect tens of thousands of historic buildings, archeological sites, and Native American sacred sites. Aca,!A"Hopefully,Aca,!A? says Mackson, Aca,!A"Eco Day will convey that same sense of responsibility.Aca,!A?