Addie and Danielle are both interns with DENR’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach. Addie is a senior at N.C. State University, majoring in natural resources with a concentration in policy and administration. Danielle is a 2011 Master of Public Administration candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Our first recycling outreach event was at N.C. Central University for the Pro-Am College Basketball Tournament. We were not sure what to expect since we don’t regularly work in outreach. DEAO’s Kelley Dennings prepared us well with anecdotes on outreach and lots of stickers, bottle openers, brochures and surveys packed up and ready to go.
After we packed our car with supplies, a table and some chairs, we headed to Durham. We experienced the first of many hurdles in outreach: getting to the event! We were relieved to get to the gymnasium with no problems, and even got a parking space close by. This was a huge blessing since we had so much to carry, and it was raining when we left. We set up near the trophy case, hoping to catch peoples’ eyes as they walked by to tell them about recycling.
Some visitors did not want anything to do with us. We didn’t have very many people walk up to us on their own, but when we reached out, some would stop. It reminded us of avoiding kiosks in shopping malls. If you stop to take a free sample or demonstration, they suck you in and won’t let you leave. It seemed like some of the Pro-Am visitors viewed us in the same way. Naturally, some people just didn’t want to talk with us.
We did succeed in handing out some bottle openers to adults and stickers to little kids. Some played the game “What’s in the box?” They were amused by the game and surprised to pull out “wood” made of recycled plastic. We made sure to remind people to “please recycle!” One thing we noticed was we had nothing to give 13 to 20 -year -olds. This group was too old for stickers, but we did not feel appropriate handing them bottle openers. We spent some time brainstorming items for that group, but it is difficult to come up with affordable items on a publicly-funded budget.
Overall, it was a very good experience that we both enjoyed. We got to interact with the public directly and promote recycling with face to face contact. Recently, we both got to work another outreach event at the North Carolina State Fair. We volunteered at the RE3 recycling booth in the Green NC tent and reached out to thousands through surveys, recycling pledges, pictures with the RE3 avatars and Can Guy from Recycle Guys, free bottle openers and much more! If you didn’t get a chance to come by the recycling booth, make sure you stop in next year at the N.C. State Fair!