Kendal at Lexington- Making a Difference One Plastic Bag at a Time

Whether it’s a wayward grocery bag stuck in a tree, or a protective cover for clean shirts from the dry cleaner, plastic is everywhere.

The Sustainability Committee at Kendal at Lexington is working to put all that plastic to good use as part of the fun a rewarding “Trex Challenge.”

The Trex Challenge encourages schools and communities to collect 500 pounds of plastic film waste in six months. The reward? A free bench.

Trex is a Winchester, VA, based company that produces eco-friendly composite decking and outdoor furniture made from 95% recycled wood and plastic film. Last fall, Kendal purchased several Trex benches and chairs that are placed around campus.

Over Halfway to the Goal

As of mid-September, 357 pounds of plastic film has already been collected. The challenge ends November 30and Anita James, one of the sustainability committee members, is confident the goal will be met.

She admits when the idea was first presented, most members thought there was no way they could collect 500 pounds of “flimsy plastic bags.”

“Five hundred pounds of plastic equals 40,000 plastic bags,” Anita said. “It’s not just plastic grocery bags, it’s any thin plastic that stretches, like the bags from the dry cleaners, or the wrap that covers a lot of big shipments.”

While things like frozen food bags, candy bar wrappers, or any other brittle plastic that crinkles are not part of the collection effort, there are numerous plastic products that staff and residents can add to the collection points. Items considered “stretchy” are things like bread and cereal bags. dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, some Amazon envelopes and packaging, and Ziplock and other re-sealable bags.

Anita has been weighing and transporting the plastic to the Lexington Food Lion grocery store, which serves as a collection point.

But the benefit goes beyond getting a free bench. “Otherwise, this plastic would head to a landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to decompose. I see this as a win, win, win.”

Staff and Residents are Pitching in Their Plastic

Both residents and staff are participating. One collection point on the Kendal campus is in the maintenance building, where they collect the large plastic wrap from goods on pallets and other large items. Other collection points are situated for easy drop-off.

Word of mouth has reached family and area residents who are bringing by their plastic. According to Anita, one resident’s daughter brought all the bread wrappers from a summer camp that she was working at, and one of the maintenance crew has an arrangement with Harbor Freight to collect their shrink wrap. Recently he brought a big bag (15.2 pounds) of shrink wrap.

The challenge can be repeated and while this is the first time for Kendal to participate in the free bench project, they hope to sign up for another six-month challenge since response has been positive. “The committee wanted to involve administration and staff, not just the residents, so staff gets to decide where the first bench goes.”

Other Green Initiatives

The Sustainability Committee is also focused on resources and energy conservation, with electric conservation getting the spotlight.

“The committee is focused on helping residents understand peak and off-peak electric use. We’ve put up reminders and given out sticky handouts to put at home urging people to use off-peak hours for things like laundry and setting their dishwasher to run overnight. Since we pay a monthly room and board, we don’t see how much water, electricity, or gas we’re using like we did when we lived independently and received a bill every month,” Anita said.

Peak hours where electric use is more costly are 7 am to 10 pm October 1 through May 31, and June through September is 10 am to 10 pm.

Anita says just a little awareness can make a difference. “I already had a long-time resident tell me she started setting her dishwasher to run at night.”

The committee has a baseline of energy usage data and hopes to watch it over time to see if these types of awareness efforts lead to a reduction in energy usage. Plans to focus on water and gas conservation are also in the works. The semi-annual roadside clean-up is also scheduled for October 2, with a rain date of October 9 along a two-mile stretch of Enfield Road just outside Kendal’s campus.

Being good stewards of resources and taking care of the environment reflects the values of Kendal as part of a greater community. Efforts by the resident sustainability committee help put these values into practice.