Think Before You Throw

Associate Gen Eiler Raises Awareness on Recycling

By Sarah Baker

There’s the old saying, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” That couldn’t be truer for CSJ Associate Gen Eiler—recycler extraordinaire. With her main goal to keep things out of the landfills, Gen focuses much of her time and energy on caring for the environment and living out the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s call to action to be “in communion with the earth” through her recycling efforts.

“It’s something that needs to be done for the future of the earth and future generations,” says Gen. “I live it on a daily basis.”

Gen is accustomed to not wasting things. For many years, she has salvaged her own “trash” all the while being vocal with others on the issue. “I talk to the dear neighbor individually and in groups about the importance of recycling and the resources available to help them do that,” she says.

You name it, Gen saves it. There are the obvious recycling items—newspaper, Styrofoam, egg cartons, oatmeal boxes, coffee containers, plastic bottles, and paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Then, there are the less-obvious items most consider trash-worthy: broken egg shells, socks with holes, twisty ties, bottle caps, toothpaste tubes, meat and veggie Styrofoam trays, and wine corks.

“There are so many things that are thrown away that don’t need to be,” says Gen. “People are looking for these items to be used for other things. Teachers use many of these items for arts and crafts.”

Gen not only saves her own items for recycling, but happily collects other people’s designated items and stores them in her basement. She then delivers them to various destinations that welcome them for continued use—places like local food pantries, recycling centers, Goodwill stores and more. “The trunk of my car is a recycling center,” laughs Gen.

With her “antenna always up,” Gen remains aware of who takes what items for reusable purposes by reading local newspapers and publications and by word of mouth.

Over the years, Gen has influenced workplaces, neighbors and other groups to take the initiative on making better choices for the environment. “My square dance club used to eat off of Styrofoam plates,” shares Gen. “We now pay extra money for biodegradable cups and plates.” Linhardt Chiropractic Health Services in St. Louis, where Gen works as a receptionist, joined the bandwagon and began recycling in the office because of her promotion.

Gen has other ways of living an eco-friendly lifestyle: she takes her own reusable shopping bags into stores, uses a water filter rather than buying bottled water, heats water on the stove for washing dishes rather than waiting for the faucet water to get warm, and uses cloth instead of paper towels.

“We are all responsible,” says Gen. “What we do is going to affect the environment and others in the future. At some point we’re going to run out of room for landfills … if we haven’t already.”

Did You Know?

  • The plastic sleeves that cover newspapers and the plastic that wraps paper towels and toilet paper can be included in the recycling bins at stores that recycle plastic grocery bags.
  • UPS will take back your packing materials such as air-filled plastic bags and Styrofoam peanuts.
  • The Humane Society welcomes shredded paper, newspaper, old towels and sheets.
  • Some Goodwill retail stores help keep clothing out of the landfills by sending unsold items to textile recycling organizations for further use.
  • Lowe’s and Home Depot offer free recycling programs for a variety of items including fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), holiday light strings, batteries, cell phones and more!

Check with your local stores and organizations for recycling opportunities and reusable items. Together, we can care for the earth, keep trash out of landfills and make a difference for future generations.

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