Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Earth Day Committee

For the last nine years, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Earth Day Committee has arranged with the Missouri State Recycling Program to host a Zero Waste Challenge during the department’s Earth Day celebration at the Capitol.

The department began hosting an annual Earth Day celebration 22 years ago that is geared toward fifth-grade students with the goal to educate about our natural resources and ways to safeguard them. The department, other state and federal agencies, and others come together for this event.

Educating attendees about recycling is paramount, and one of the long-term goals of the Zero Waste Challenge is to encourage Earth Day participants to strive for zero waste. The challenge for each year’s participants is to reduce the amount of waste (trash and recyclables) as compared to the previous year.

Before the celebration takes place, information is provided to teachers who registered their students to participate. A flier about the Zero Waste Challenge is distributed to the teachers and posted on the department’s Earth Day website. The flier encourages everyone to pre-cycle, by only purchasing #1 and #2 type plastic bottle containers, and instead of each student having a brown bag lunch, the teachers are encouraged to prepare a box of sandwiches, a box of apples, a box of drinks, and other lunch items to be served buffet-style, etc. The flier also provides the link to wastefreelunch.com, a website dedicated to educating about how to prepare waste-free lunches.

Onsite, recycling stations are placed on the south lawn of the Capitol during the Earth Day celebration. All waste (trash and recyclables) are audited and weighed.

In the last nine years, approximately 1,500 lbs. of recyclables have been collected and recycled. Since inception of the challenge, the amount of trash collected has been cut in half. Annually, more than 1,300 students, teachers and citizens learn about the environment.

Additionally, for the last seven years, students from Chamois High School and their teacher, Traci Murray, volunteered to assist where needed during the celebration. Murray contacted Hylan Beydler, Earth Day 2010 chairwoman, to ask if their students could assist in any way during the celebration, because Murray’s desire was for her students to help give back to the community by serving others. Since 2010, Murray and her students have volunteered at the Zero Waste Challenge, the craft booth, and in other capacities during Earth Day. By helping with the Zero Waste Challenge, the students definitely are giving back, paying it forward and demonstrating the spirit of volunteerism to younger students as well as adults.

On April 22, 2016, during the Earth Day opening ceremony, Todd Sampsell, MoDNR Deputy Director awarded Murray the first Missouri Department of Natural Resources Excellence in Natural Resources Education Award, for her commitment to educating students about our natural resources.

“Traci Murray is a gold mine! She is a great motivator of students, and it is obvious they like her. I commend her for helping engage students in giving back to the community and educating them about the environment. Last year, Traci told me her students especially like helping with the Zero Waste Challenge, so it is rewarding to know they enjoy this important work.” – Hylan Beydler, MoDNR Earth Day committee member. 

“It is a valuable lesson that we are trying to teach the students and to see the high school students getting involved and volunteering is great! They really engage well with the younger students to help them recycle their lunches.” – Brenda Wansing, MoDNR Earth Day committee member. 

“Students as well as the craft crew were recycling corks in the craft area. After some of the students raced their boats they no longer wanted them and we reused the corks to make more boats.” – Laura Payton, MoDNR Earth Day committee member.

An award ceremony was held November 3, 2016, at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building. The energy efficient building holds a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating – the highest rating a LEED-rated building can receive. Learn more about the Lewis and Clark State Office Building.  

Read the nomination narrative.

Pictured above are committee members: Brenda Wansing, Division of Environmental Quality, Air Pollution Control Program; Laura Payton, Division of State Parks; Christa Dickneite, Division of Administrative Services; Van Beydler, Division of Environmental Quality, Soil and Water Conservation Program; Hylan Beydler, Missouri Geological Survey; Susan Bloomer, Division of Environmental Quality, Water Protection Program; Renee Bungart, Director’s Office. Not pictured: Larry Archer, Division of Environmental Quality; Stacy Bandelier, Division of State Parks; Amy Poos, Division of Environmental Quality, Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste Programs; Richard Loaiza, Division of State Parks; Lisa Nahach, Division of Environmental Quality, Air Pollution Control and Environmental Services Programs; Kendra Swee, Division of State Parks.

The 2016 Missouri State Recycling Award inscription is as follows: 2016 – Missouri State Recycling Program Annual Award – Presented in recognition of your outstanding contributions to the citizens and employees of the State Of Missouri – Earth Day Committee – Department of Natural Resources.