Powering Mid-Michigan With Eco-Projects

The Friedland Industries building in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood bustles with activity. Steady streams of people unload scores of paper-filled boxes from their cars.  Green-minded volunteers feed thousands of documents into a giant paper shredder.  The shredded paper is bound into tightly packed, cube-shaped bales, to be reprocessed into recycled paper.

Local environmentalist Kevin Green surveys the hectic scene with quiet satisfaction.

Green helped organize Lansing’s second Document Destruction Day, and it proved to be a big hit. By the end of the four-hour April 19 event, more than 200 people had recycled roughly 14,000 pounds of paper.

Events like Document Destruction Day, are helping to meet an ever increasing demand for recycling options in the Mid-Michigan region.

“People are absolutely thrilled,” says Green, who works for Lansing’s Principal Shopping District organization. “Almost to a person, they’ve said ‘We’ve been waiting for an event like this.’”

Putting Words Into Action

Businesses, municipalities and green-minded citizens—like the appropriately named Kevin Green—are working to spread the recycling gospel across the region. This includes the City of Lansing, which recently started the Go Green! Go Lansing! initiative.

“The ultimate goal of Go Green! is to reduce Lansing’s CO2 emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels,” says the City of Lansing’s Go Green! program director, Taylor Heins. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

To achieve that goal, Lansing will strive to make city facilities more energy efficient, foster environmental education in Lansing’s schools, encourage the use of public transportation and promote recycling.

This includes proposals to install energy-efficient ventilation systems in city hall and the police headquarters, encouraging employees to turn lights off, and installing sensors that automatically turn lights off when rooms are empty. The city’s also replacing incandescent light-bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, and adding 'flex fuel' cars to its fleet.

Businesses and individuals are also signing the Go Green! pledge, a commitment to be more energy efficient.

“We crunched some numbers, and if someone commits to recycle more or ride the bus more, they can save up to one ton of CO2 emissions,” explains Heins.

Such savings have a real impact, she says. “We create cleaner, healthier communities that are better for us to live in. It also makes Lansing more attractive to other businesses and residents who are looking to live in a green city.”

About 50 businesses have signed the pledge, including Capitol Macintosh, the Granger Group, Impression 5 Science Center and Tetra Tech. 1500 individuals have also signed the personal pledge.

Kevin Green is one of them. An avid recycler, Green has promoted recycling amongst his co-workers as well.

“There are nine of us in our office and we recycle everything,” Green says of his PSD colleagues. “More and more businesses are beginning to look at recycling as a viable opportunity, not only to help the environment, but to save money. Also, they’re looking to partner with other businesses so they can recycle in bulk. People are really becoming more ecologically aware”

The Recycling Wagon

As the president of Friedland Industries, Larry Bass knows a thing or two about the benefits of recycling.

A Lansing-based business for more than 100 years, Friedland has facilitated Lansing recycling since it was called “scrap processing” in the 1970s. The company processes several hundred million pounds of materials a year—everything from bank statements to large heaps of scrap metal.

“You’re doing good things for the community, you’re doing good things for the economy,” Bass says. “It takes 76 percent less energy to make paper out of old paper than to cut down trees. Nothing has to be taken out of the earth if we reuse and retake what we have already.”

The City of East Lansing also has an impressive recycling resume. In 1991, East Lansing recycled 871 tons of material. By 2007, the city had nearly doubled that amount, recycling 1,600 tons, or about 3.2 million pounds, of material.

“We recycle a lot of things and we do it in a lot of different ways,” says David Smith,  the environmental specialist for the City of East Lansing. “It’s not just our curbside drop-off program, but we have special collection events as well.”

“Last year we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by about 100 tons in East Lansing. We reduced our water waste by 7.5 tons,” Smith says. “We saved 14,000 trees just by recycling. That’s rewarding in and of itself.”

Around 75 percent of East Lansing residents recycle weekly, and more than 80 percent recycle at least once a month, according to research and surveys done by the city and MSU students. “When you compare that with other communities, that's quite high," says Smith.

The largest special collection event in East Lansing is the wildly successful Project Pride.

Held on the Saturday after Memorial Day at the Abbott Center in East Lansing, Project Pride is a spring cleaning event where East Lansing residents can recycle everything from cardboard, newspapers, lawn mowers, washing machines and even automobiles.

“We bring in a bunch of different organizations, like the Salvation Army, Friedman Industries which collects scrap metal, and Dart Container, which collects Styrofoam,” Smith says.

“People come in and clean out their garages and basements and bring in everything they can. And hopefully, by the time they’re done going through the site, they’ve gotten rid of everything in their car and it’s all been reused and recycled,” says Smith.

Several other recycling events will be held over the summer, including computer and electronic equipment recycling at the Lansing Recycling Transfer Station, and plastic planting container collections in Haslett.

Such events reflect a growing trend towards regional cooperation in recycling efforts, a trend certain to continue. In 1991, East Lansing only recycled five different products. Today, it recycles 15 different products.

The City of Lansing recently began accepting boxboard items, such as cereal and shoe boxes, and is looking to accept more items in the near future.
“I’d like to see that continued cooperation around the region, and more recycling events,” says Smith, who would like “for people to recycle even more products than they are now. For our people to have an increased environmental conscience, and not just recycle the things that are convenient and easy, but to really think about what they’re doing on a daily basis.”

Joshua Hagadorn is a freelance writer working in Lansing.  

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Kevin Green with bales of shredded paper

City of Lansing’s Go Green! program director, Taylor Heins

Plastic bottles at Friedland Industries

David Smith teaches kids about recycling at Red Cedar Elementary in East Lansing

Copper for recycling at Friedland Industries

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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