Students push to save planet

Restaurants use contest-winning placemats encouraging recycling

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron From left, Zac Caldwell, Kelsie Rudolph and Evelyn Moore hold their projects that they entered in this year’s annual Mahoning County Green Team placemat competition. The three Boardman students took first-place honors in their grades.

BOARDMAN — The brightly colored pictures and lettering on Kelsie Rudolph’s placemat also acted as an imprint of sorts to explain her stance on the importance of recycling.

“At home, we recycle milk cartons and pop bottles — those are the main two things,” the Boardman Glenwood Junior High School student said. “When I was younger, I didn’t care, but as I grew up, I wanted to improve the environment and not make it worse.”

Kelsie’s desire to do her part to improve the environment also was met with something that had no built-in room for improvement: a first-place finish in the Mahoning County Green Team’s recent annual placemat competition.

Nearly 750 students entered this year’s competition, themed “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Don’t Litter.” About 3,000 copies of the winning placemats were printed and delivered to area restaurants in June.

Three of the nine first-place finishers, including Kelsie, are from the Boardman Local School District. The other two were Evelyn Moore and Zac Caldwell, both of West Boulevard Elementary School.

Evelyn, Zac and Kelsie were first-place finishers for second, third and seventh grades, respectively.

Kelsie said it bothers her that some people continue to litter and burn their trash, despite the enormous pile of information about the harmful effects both have on the environment.

“I just think they should recycle. It’s not hard to do,” said Kelsie, whose placemat has a number of recyclable items, along with captions of this year’s theme and a quote from singer John Denver that reads, “Love the Earth as you would love yourself.”

Zac’s favorite superheroes include Batman and Aquaman, but for his placemat, the West Boulevard Elementary student came up with the “Recycling Man,” a character wearing yellow and green clothing with spiked hair and 3D glasses. Next to the drawing is a caption that says, “How about super recycling!”

“We recycle at home and have two recycling bins to be picked up,” he said. “It’s wrong not to recycle. You should because you can make new stuff with it.”

For her part, Evelyn used a turtle, her favorite animal, as the centerpiece for her placemat. On it, she designed what appears to be a winged turtle, with a slightly distressed expression, swimming while surrounded by pieces of trash, the likes of which are often discarded into oceans. She added the caption, “Save the animals. Please don’t litter.”

The items include pieces of plastic grocery bags as well as plastic holders into which are placed six-packs of beer and soda, for example.

“I want a clean ocean for turtles and all animals in it,” Evelyn said.

For Evelyn’s mother, Casey Cox, her daughter’s placemat represents a larger picture.

“She’s always been an activist since birth, and I hope that continues,” Casey added.

For their top finishes, Evelyn, Zac and Kelsie received $25 gift certificates, bird feeders made from recycled materials, certificates of award from the Green Team and laminated copies of their projects.


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