You and I live in a disposable world. So many items we use from day to day are thrown away when we’re finished—from soft drink cups or plastic bottles, to milk cartons, candy wrappers, paper towels, boxes and mail. You name it, we’ve found a way to throw it away. Since the 1970’s, we’ve heard about the problem of landfill, waste and pollution. Recycling began to surface in our conversations.
This is where Erek Hansen enters the picture.
Nobody is more serious about this issue than a young teenager named Erek Hansen. Erek has grown up in this disposable world, where most of his peers find it easier to discard unwanted items in the trash or throw them on the ground. Erek was no different until he began hearing about the ecological problems our world faces, as well as the needs of so many disadvantaged people who could use what we middle-class Americans throw away. Erek is leading the charge to turn that around and help us all be more resourceful.
Here’s his story. Erek is 13 years old. Since he was 8, he’s been on a mission to round up items people typically throw away and provide them to those who desperately need them. His parents noticed his passion for recycling and encouraged him to study and pursue it like a calling. Erek has primarily chosen to focus on jeans and shoes. The jeans are all recycled, turned into insulation and used in homes for low-income families. They are shredded into cotton fibers and remanufactured into housing insulation to benefit communities affected by natural disasters. In the past, the denim insulation has gone to Habitat for Humanity to help communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Shoes are gathered and sent to USAgain in Chicago to be sorted. Those in good condition are re-directed to those who need them, and shoes in poor condition are ground to make raw material for sidewalks, running tracks, carpet underlayment and playground mulch. It’s a Win-Win for everyone involved.
When Erek was nine, he started a non-profit organization and won the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest collection of clothing to be recycled. So far, he’s collected over 19,000 pairs of jeans and over 11,000 pairs of shoes.
Who says kids can’t or don’t want to make a difference?
What students need are caring adults who are intentional at:
- Spotting a problem and helping young people turn it into a passion.
- Helping the student dig into what’s wrong… until they want to act.
- Encouraging them to use their resources to become more resourceful.
- Enabling kids to see that changing their ways can actually help others.
- Equipping students to see that serving people is even more rewarding than being served.
Erek Hansen is just one example of a student who’s stepped onto a great path, in a world where it’s easier to act entitled, get lost in games, and live a sedentary life. You can read more about him at http://www.ecoerek.org.
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