JOLIET – A smiling Wyn Hyzer looked out over the young audience at Rialto Square Theatre.
The youths and their chaperones and teachers from across Will County were there to be honored for earning Earth Flag Awards. Hyzer, Environmental Educator for the Land Use Department’s Resource Recovery and Energy Division, had worked with her audience throughout the school year leading up to the May 7 event.
To earn the award, a school must complete four “Earth friendly” tasks during the school year, such start an environmental club which meets at least monthly to discuss environmental topics, start composting organic food scraps at school using a compost bin or worm farm or perform at least two waste-free lunch days during the school year.
This year, 52 schools earned the designation, of which 50 were repeat winners and two, John R. Tibbot School in Bolingbrook and St. Joseph School in Lockport, were first-time winners. Eighteen schools sent delegations to the ceremony.
In addition, three schools were named winners in the TREX Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge. From October to April 22, 32 of the schools collected plastic grocery-type bags. Each week the bags were dropped off at area stores.
The plastic is used to make plastic lumber for decking and outdoor furniture. Winners were based on weight per capita so as not to penalize the smaller schools, Hyzer explained. Each participating school received a TREX lumber birdhouse.
Collectively, the schools turned in more than 6,745 pounds of bags. “In case you don’t know what this really means,” Hyzer told the students, “one large giraffe weighs about the same as the plastic you all collected. Or two Ford Taurus cars would also weigh about the same number of pounds.”
Winning for the second year in a row, collecting 4 pounds per student, was St. Mary Nativity of Joliet. In second place, collecting more than 3 pounds per student, was Frankfort Square School in Frankfort. Third place went to Holy Family School of Shorewood with 1.6 pounds per student.
Hyzer, who has been the County’s Environmental Educator for four years, is pleased with the growth of the program.
She told her audience, “The Earth Flag program has increased dramatically in school participation. Back during the 2005-2006 school year there were only 32 schools that had completed the requirements.
“The program has continued to grow and this year we are happy to be honoring 52 Will County schools. Let’s see if we can get that number over 60 next year!”
The Land Use Department is led by Director Curt Paddock and is under Will County Executive Larry Walsh’s office.
For a photo and information about each of the schools attending the ceremony, as well as a list of winning schools which were unable to attend, go to www.willcountyillinois.com, under the press releases section.