DARBY - As they culled redundant catalogues and taped household batteries for recycling, the Go Green Club gave all appearances Thursday that Darby Elementary School is grooming the next generation of earth-conscious citizens.
"There's nothing wrong with being [an environmentalist]," said Casey Smith, a fifth grader in Richard May's class. "We're just standing up for the earth and if anyone has a problem with it, we'll stick up for it."
The Go Green Club, which is run through Connie Gallagher's Family Resource Center classroom, includes 16 or so fifth graders who are dedicated to making the planet a little greener and a little cleaner, said Kate Duggan, a Parent Teacher Association volunteer who often helps the group. "The kids really have taken the lead on everything," Duggan said.
Everything includes a program to reduce the number of catalogues the Darby schools receive, to properly recycle household batteries, recycle foil packaging from drink pouches, recycle ledger paper, and start a garden with compost created from food waste at the school cafeteria.
With the help of the Darby PTA, the group also helped create some momentum for bringing local recycling back to the south Bitterroot Valley.
The groups collaborated on a grant to purchase a recycling trailer that would live on school grounds, but the grant fell through, Duggan said.
"We're exploring other options," she added, referring to efforts to purchase a trailer that can cost as much as $17,000. "The main thing with rural recycling is transportation costs ... The kids are really fueling the drive to get that done."
But the bread and butter of the Go Green program are catalogues and batteries.
Who knew that one school might get eight copies of Stumps Prom and Party catalogue? Who knew there was a glossy called Stumps Prom and Party?
All agreed there were simply too many catalogues coming.
So, through a Web-based effort called CatalogCancellingChallenge.com, the group began to collect the school's extra marketing mailers. Then they dial up the companies who send them out and ask to cancel the extra copies.
The cancelling process is not without its perils, said Keegan Gallagher.
"You hear a lot of elevator music," Gallagher said.
But the students said suffering through Muzak's latest rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" is worth it.
"For every 100 catalogues we do, it saves a tree," Smith said. "And for the record, (Muzak) is kind of fun to dance to when you're bored."
So far the group guessed it might be about halfway to saving a tree.
As for batteries, the perils there are avoided as students don gloves in precaution against heavy metals and other chemicals that might be leaking from old batteries.
The old batteries go through a taping brigade, in which students place tape over the positive ends of household batteries to keep them from striking up a charge with other batteries during transit to recycling.
Folks at First Christian Church have set the students up with bins to collect the batteries for proper disposal.
Summer Lee said the improper disposal of batteries is a real problem.
"They just go to waste," she said, "and it's real bad for the environment."
The worst part, she and her classmates agreed, is that batteries contain heavy metals and chemicals that are quickly leeched into the soils and ground water at dump sites. That's no small problem given that about three billion household batteries containing zinc and manganese dioxide or cadmium and nickel are sold annually in the United States.
Incineration of batteries can release those same harmful compounds into the air.
Josh Carney said they've seen plenty of rechargeable batteries among the cast offs set for recycling.
"People don't even know they're rechargeable a lot of times," Carney said.
The work on drink pouches actually amounts to an investment in the program.
Kraft Foods, makers of Capri Sun drinks, will reimburse the school 2 cents for every pouch collected, Duggan said.
"It's not a huge return on effort, but it's better than going in the landfill," she added.
The group is planning to lend its considerable energy to help Darby beautify itself on April 24, set aside as Darby Clean-up Day.
A day that also happens to be Arbor Day.
When that fact was revealed, there was plenty of excitement and a plan quickly formed to ask Principal Lloyd Rennaker about planting some trees on the school grounds.
"They're into beautification," Duggan said.
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org