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How one 4-H club's service learning project continues to have a BIG impact

It's been eight years since recycling became a part of the Redwood County Fair. And we can thank one very special 4-H club for making it happen.

The Redwood Rainbows 4-H Club, located in Redwood County, Minnesota, saw the absence of recycling at the Redwood County Fair as an excellent community service opportunity. In 2006, with the assistance of several grants, including ones from the MN 4-H Foundation and the Redwood County 4-H Federation, the club purchased 50 red recycling barrels. They attached labels, cut small holes into the lids and posted signs around the grounds to educate fair attendees on what items were recyclable and should be put in a red barrel instead of in a garbage can. Fairgoers used the recycling barrels, volunteers sorted the plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum and the county recycling center picked up and process the items collected.

After the initial success of this project, the club's passion for recycling and educating people on how easy it is to recycle continued. Instead of leaving the barrels in storage until the next year's county fair, they started loaning the recycling barrels to various cities and events in the area including Farmfest, a three day agriculture showcase that draws over 35,000 attendees annually.

Donalee Josephson & Patricia Buboltz, along with their 4-H families, organize the use of the recycling barrels at local events. "Recycling had become a habit at home and at work but when we went to large events, we had no place to recycle our items," explain Pat. "It seemed worthwhile to make these barrels available wherever possible. We also allow the school and community center to use them year round as they host many large events."

The long-term impact of this 4-H service learning project is staggering. Last summer alone, recycling efforts at the Redwood County Fair resulted in over 4,000 pounds of recyclable items being directed away from the landfill, including:

  • 400 pounds of plastic
  • 3,300 pounds of cardboard
  • 600 pounds of glass

    And at Farmfest 2013, the numbers were even more staggering:
  • 1,000 pounds of plastic
  • 150 pounds of aluminum
  • 7,000 pounds of cardboard
  • 1,600 pounds of paper avoided the landfill!

    Over 100 youth and adult volunteers participated in the recycling project last year. The enthusiastic volunteers gather the bags of recyclables, remove lids and stray items and sort types. Recycling materials not only makes sense to protect our earth and resources, but it also saves businesses money they would otherwise have to pay for garbage removal.

    We are so proud of these 4-H youth and families who are really living out the 4-H pledge:
    I pledge my HEAD to clearer thinking,
    My HEART to greater loyalty,
    My HANDS to larger service,
    And my HEALTH to better living, for my family, my club, my community, my country and my world.

    By Karen Beranek
    Redwood County 4-H Program Coordinator

    This 4-H service learning project was funded in part by a Helping Hands Grant from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. To learn more about this grant program, please visit our website or call us at 612-624-7971.

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