Up-Cycling with SCARCE: SUST Senior Cassidy Avent Reflects on Her Summer 2015 Internship

This guest post is by RU senior Cassidy Avent, a SUST major who interned during the Summer 2015 semester at the non-profit organization, SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education), based in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Here’s another installment of Cassidy’s reflections on her work as an environmental educator to young people across the DuPage County area

Front Hallway of SCARCE (photo: C. Avent)

Front Hallway of SCARCE (photo: C. Avent)

Over the summer of 2015, I interned at a nonprofit organization known as School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE). SCARCE promotes environmental education and preservation of the Earth’s resources, and works to build sustainable communities. My duties as an intern varied throughout the summer, working every week on the various rescue projects SCARCE has created.

One of their most widely recognized projects is known as the Book Rescue. At SCARCE’s location in Glen Ellyn, founder Kay McKeen has transformed this warehouse-like space into a vibrant repository for over 25,000 books available to teachers and non-profit organizers. All of the books that end up on the shelves of SCARCE are donated from local residents and may be used by teachers and non-profit workers for free. However, there are a lot of donated books that are not in great condition and do not make the cut to enter the shelves. The beauty of this operation is that these items are recycled properly so as to keep as much waste out of a landfill as possible.

Donations of other items also come in from many members of the local community for a SCARCE project known as Tools for Schools. Businesses, schools, and individuals can donate school or office supplies and SCARCE will redistribute these items to teachers and children in need. The inventory of the Tools for Schools section of SCARCE differs every day, but there is usually an abundance of binders, pens, pencils, paper, rulers, glue, and other supplies available for teachers. Instead of being thrown out, all of these items will be reused by teachers and students.

SCARCE has another amazing project known as the Super Crayon Project which serves two purposes: one is to provide large crayons for children with disabilities and other individuals who may not be able to hold smaller crayons easily, and the other is to provide a way for people to recycle their used crayons without throwing them into the trash.

Super Crayon Molds (photo: C. Avent)

Super Crayon Molds (photo: C. Avent)

The crayons donated by the community are sorted by color, peeled, melted down in a crock pot, and poured into molds. Many of the molds are fun shapes children love — like dinosaurs, flowers, racecars, butterflies, farm animals, and more. SCARCE has many volunteers that come in to help make these “super crayons,” and it is truly rewarding to see how happy people are about making a real difference.

There are also some additional projects which SCARCE works on that are linked to other causes and organizations. One of these outside programs is TerraCycle, which collects various objects that would not normally be recycled and diverts them from the waste stream. When I would spend days in the warehouse, one of my duties was to check donated pens to see if they were usable. If they were, I would put them out for teachers to take for their students. If not, I would fill a box with the unusable pens and package them to send to TerraCycle.

The items that TerraCycle collects are up-cycled, and made into new products that consumers can purchase, such as Capri-Sun tote-bags, bins for office supplies, and watering cans. SCARCE works with TerraCycle to turn unusable pens into something useable again.

Another small program SCARCE participates in is called the Suitcase Project. When Kay McKeen becomes aware of an individual who is travelling to an area where teachers and students are in desperate need of school supplies, she packs up a suitcase full of books and other learning essentials and sends it with the traveler to give to the people there. Even though it may just be a small suitcase, those donations provide a form of inspiration that children desperately need.

Making Super Crayons

 Myself, making Super Crayons

The many projects that SCARCE has created are extremely impactful within the DuPage County area, and some even benefit people around the world. By collecting donated books and other supplies for teachers and nonprofit workers, SCARCE helps students in need of educational materials whose families may not be able to afford such things.

Additionally, items that would normally have ended up in a landfill now have an opportunity to be reused or recycled properly. If you live in the area and have books or other school supplies you no longer need, stop by SCARCE and make a difference!

Submitted 4 Mar 2016 by Cassidy Avent

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