by Amy Hansen
Erek Hansen, known as “EcoErek”, age 11 and a 6th grade student at Eisenhower Middle School in Oregon, Ohio, received an Environmental Achievement Award in the Youth & Education category at the Ohio Environmental Council’s annual Green Gala in Columbus in October in front of a full crowd of 400 attendees.
Erek was nominated for being a recycling crusader. He is an activist in collecting denim and shoes through drives he holds across Ohio. The denim is ultimately remanufactured into housing insulation that is donated back to communities that have been struck by natural disasters (www.CottonFromBlueToGreen.org).
The shoes are sent to USAgain (pronounced use-again — www.usagain.com) and good-condition shoes are re-directed to those who need them. Shoes in poor condition are ground to make raw material for sidewalks, running tracks, carpet underlayment and playground mulch. USAgain donated $5 for every $1 Erek raised from the shoes. Erek will donate the $685 he receives from USAgain for the shoes collected this year directly to Project Kaisei, a non-profit organization focused on increasing awareness of marine debris, its impact on the environment, and the solution for both prevention and clean-up (www.projectkaisei.org).
In November, EcoErek announced the results of his annual recycling drive. Over the course of three public drives, three drop-off box locations and many schools, churches and companies helping Erek’s cause, he was able to keep 3,920 pairs of jeans and 3,000 pairs of shoes out of Northwest Ohio landfills in 2011.
His three-year crusade has kept 9,758 pairs of jeans out of the landfill, which converts to approximately 21,000 lbs. Or 10 tons of cotton and 32,200 sq./ft. of insulation. This is enough to insulate nearly 20 homes.
Since 2009, Erek has been on a mission to collect unwanted, stained, hole-y, out-of-style denim clothing items to recycle and in 2011 added unwanted, worn out, too-big, too-small shoes of any kind to this mission. He wants to keep these items out of the local landfills and at the same time help communities that have been hit by natural disasters.
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