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W-WG students say 'YES' to conservation

The Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School Earth YES (Youth Energy Summit) group won a $1,000 prize for creating this oil, oil filter and antifreeze recycling station as a way to clean up the environment. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)1 / 2
The new oil, oil filter and antifreeze recycling center at Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School is shown. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)2 / 2

WESTBROOK — The Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School Earth YES (Youth Energy Summit) class has won a $1,000 prize for developing the most creative and most useful idea to help protect the environment.

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On Tuesday, the group launched the grand opening of a community recycling station that accepts used motor oil, oil filters and antifreeze. The drop-off station includes a box asking that individuals who utilize the service donate $1 per oil filter and 50 cents for antifreeze disposal, while motor oil disposal is free.

Haley Kindschy, a W-WG junior, is one of half a dozen juniors and seniors in the Earth YES class. She said their project was developed as part of a statewide Earth YES competition.

“You have to think of an idea to help the environment,” she explained. “It has to be ongoing and very useful.”

While the Earth YES group has advertised the recycling station and put up posters, Kindschy said it had just a few people use it the first day. The hope is that word spreads through the community more people will take advantage of the service. The recycling station is located on the school parking lot, near the main school building in Westbrook.

“When you put your used oil in the station, it will save the planet by keeping oil out of the oceans, streams and groundwater,” Kindschy said.

As items are collected, the Earth YES group members will take them to a place for proper disposal. Oil will be recycled and used in road construction projects, while oil filters can be recycled and reused, she said.

The recycling station is open 24/7, and anyone can use the service.

Kindschy said the idea for the oil and antifreeze recycling station was one of several discussed by students in the Earth YES group before deciding what project to implement.

“We had talked about some other ideas. We were going to do battery recycling or a compost place,” she said. “We thought this (oil recycling) was more useful.”

With the $1,000 winnings, Kindschy said the funds will be put back into the program to develop the next environmentally friendly project. There are a few ideas, but because the group enters competitions, she wouldn’t elaborate on them.

The Earth YES program was established in Minnesota in 2007, but W-WG High School has only participated in the program for a few years. In 2010, its first project was a Black Out Day, in which electrical use in the school was limited for one day. Lights and electrical devices were shut off in participating classrooms, and information was presented on how much money could be saved by conserving electrical use.

That same year, the students installed vending misers with the help of the school custodian to decrease the amount of “vampire electricity” at the school. The misers were installed and set to operate by motion detection. The devices turn the vending machines off when there isn’t activity in the hallway, and on when motion is detected.

In 2011, the Earth YES team at W-WG created Home Kits, in which reusable shopping bags were packed with information on saving energy and recycling, CFL lightbulbs, safety plugs and other goodies. The bags were distributed to community members through local banks and grocery stores.

The Earth YES project was developed through a partnership between the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center at Spicer, and the Southwest Initiative Foundation, based in Hutchinson. In 2009, the Prairie Ecology Bus Center at Lakefield joined the effort.

The goal of the program is to empower youths to partner with their community to create economic and environmental vitality through hands-on learning and team-based projects, according to the Youth Energy Summit website.

The advisor for the Earth YES program at W-WG is Patrick Merrick.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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