Library exhibit to honor Mercer Island’s legacy of environmentalism

  • Wednesday, October 25, 2017 11:08am
  • News

MIHS student Bill Hochberg, a member of the Committee to Save the Earth, accepts the 1976 Washington State Environmental Excellence Award from then Governor Dan Evans. Courtesy photo

Long before recycling was popular, Mercer Island High School students led the way in creating their own Recycling Center.

Their efforts will be recognized with an exhibit in the Mercer Island Library this week, according to a press release.

Sept. 15, 1975 — the opening day of the Mercer Island Recycling Center — was a giant step towards realizing the vision of a small group of MIHS students, members of the visionary Committee to Save the Earth.

During the next 34 years, until the Recycling Center closed on Feb. 28, 2010, materials recycled through this small building have kept millions of pounds of paper, plastic, and other reusable materials out of landfills and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars which was donated back to local schools and community groups, including a donation to the construction of adjacent Bicentennial Park.

Last month, a collection of materials pertaining to the work of the Committee to Save the Earth, including photographs, documents, notebooks, binders, certificates, brochures, drawings, letters, awards, medals, plans, meeting minutes, charts, newspaper articles, receipts, slides, a videotape (“Saving a Piece of the Earth”), and even a Committee to Save the Earth t-shirt and sweatshirt, plus the original 7-foot long “COMMITTEE TO SAVE THE EARTH Mercer Island School District Recycling Center” banner, were discovered in storage.

A small selection of these treasured items will be on display in the Mercer Island Library from Oct. 25 through Nov. 4.

Visitors to the exhibit will step back in time and learn how the MIHS students of the early 1970s envisioned reaching their goal of “Saving the earth,” their progress towards planning, funding and building the Recycling Center, and even how they inspired citizens to participate through planning and sponsoring such original, festive community activities as the “RECYCLING OLYMPICS.”

What this small, energetic, committed and determined group of Mercer Island High School students accomplished boggles the imagination even now, not only winning the coveted award for “Environmental Excellence” in 1976 from then Governor Dan Evans (the plaque will be on display), but also inspiring their community to take responsibility for recycling their trash and thus Saving the Earth.

The exhibit includes the three top-rated proposals for re-purposing the Recycling Center, as generated both by the Bainbridge Graduate Institute community survey (initiated in 2010 and concluded with a report to the City Council), and by the Community Forum “Renew, Reuse, Re-purpose” (held last month on Sept. 23).

Currently housing the only public restrooms easily accessible to the Town center, the Recycling Center also holds storage for the Thrift Shop, Summer Celebration, and the Farmers’ Market. Viewers of the display are invited to suggest their own ideas for repurposing the Recycling Center, and/or to indicate which of the purposes already identified they prefer.

The Recycling Center site is being considered for the planned Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA), though the city recently suggested that MICA look at alternate locations.

More in News

County planning Mercer Island sewer upgrade

County prepares to replace an aging pipe running beneath Lake Washington

As PSE moves away from coal, one community scrambles to build a new economy

Lewis County has long relied on the energy needs of consumers throughout the region. That’s all about to change.

Mercer Island community hosts ‘homecoming’ for baseball team

The MIHS team can finally play on its home field after the re-opening of Island Crest Park.

Mercer Island teams advance to Destination Imagination state event

A record 12 teams representing MI schools qualified for the state tournament.

Students at St. Monica School, a private Catholic school based in Mercer Island, prayed for the 17 victims of the Parkland school shooting. Photo courtesy of Krista Pittiglio
Students throughout the region leave class and call for action on guns

The demonstrations, part of the National School Walkout, marked the one month anniversary of the Parkland school shooting.

Inslee signs Breakfast after the Bell legislation into law

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, sponsored the legislation in the Senate.

41st District legislators disclose how they voted on public records bill

Senate Bill 6617 would have exempted legislators from the state’s Public Records Act.

Islanders report several cases of fraud and car prowling

The blotter consists of officers’ accounts of crimes and other incidents in Mercer Island.

Washington state passes Mercer Island legislator’s equal pay bill

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn, will address the gender wage gap.

Most Read