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

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Colburn
                                The Island’s third Pumpkin Walk is set for Oct. 27 at Luther Burbank Park.
Mercer Island Pumpkin Walk returns

After a hiatus in 2018, the pumpkin walk is back.

Former Mercer Island City Council candidate Joy Langley posted a photo of her various credentials — including her Cornell degree — on her website during her campaign after a group of residents questioned her education credentials. File photo
Prosecutors will not charge former candidate who allegedly lied to voters

Vetting of candidate information is left up to citizens.

Natalie DeFord/staff photo
                                From left, Ashley Hay and Olivia Lippens with baby Monroe in protesting the bus intercept plan in front of the future Mercer Island light rail station.
Moms, business owners, residents oppose bus intercept

Daily rider estimates debated and not yet certain.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Balducci runs against Hirt for District 6 county council seat

The former Bellevue mayor is essentially running unopposed.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee after speaking with reporters Aug. 22 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Lawmakers to governor: How dare you mess with our budget!

They want Jay Inslee to halt his planned $175 million reallocation of state transportation dollars.

“We are one,” King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht said in regard to the recent teen deaths due to fentanyl overdose. Left: Sammamish mayor Christie Malchow, King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht and Sammamish Police Chief Michelle Bennett. Madison Miller / staff photo
Two Skyline High School students die from fentanyl overdose

The Sammamish police department, city of Sammamish, school districts join forces to prevent future teen fentanyl deaths.

Most Read