>> ... Next Generation ...
Empowering young Detroiters
through recycling education.
MARIELLE TEMKIN I SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
an talking and teaching about trash really
help make Detroit a better place? Rachel
Klegon, 28, of Detroit, thinks it can. She
sees recycling education as a key to
helping turn Detroit around.
As executive director of the nonprofit Green
Living Science, Klegon works to transform Detroit
by teaching kids to reduce, reuse and recycle. While
city transformation may seem like a lofty goal for
a recycling program, check this out: Since 2007,
Green Living Science has reached more than 40,000
students in Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Last year
alone, it worked in about 40 schools. But do the kids
take to heart what they learn?
"When we first started going to DPS," Klegon
said, "the center saw an increase in the amount of
recycling because the kids would go home and tell
their parents what they learned. Each Saturday, I
track the zip codes of people coming here to bring
their recycling in, and we hear stories from parents
saying their kids learned about recycling in school
and wouldn't stop talking about it, so they came
The "here" Klegon refers to is Recycle Here! —
Detroit's drop-off recycling center and an amazing
community center. Recycle Here! started in a way
many things start in Detroit: There was a need for a
service, so a group of people stepped up and made it
happen. Green Living Science is the education arm of
Klegon, who lived in the Repair the World Moishe
House in Detroit until August and loves the local
Jewish community, stumbled onto the recycling center
Rachel Klegon checks people into the recycling
36 October 24 • 2013
Rachel Klegon teaches children in Detroit Public Schools all about recycling.
through her work with a neighborhood nonprofit.
"This was one of the first places I saw through my
work and immediately something felt right about it; I
loved the creativity of it," she said.
As luck would have it, a position at the center
opened up shortly after Klegon fell in love with it,
and she was hired to work for the mobile recycling
sites the center sets up.
"So, in that position, I served as the connection for
the neighborhoods to the center," she said. "I loved
the people — I loved how grateful they were for
what we were doing."
Klegon stayed in that position until August 2008.
As she put it, "I loved what I was doing, but I kept
finding that I was learning a lot from myself and my
own mistakes, but I didn't have that other aspect of
being taught by someone else.
"I was doing a lot and loving what I was doing,
but I felt I didn't know how to do anything properly."
So, Klegon decided to move to Lansing to work
for the Michigan Nonprofit Association. "My time in
Lansing really helped me with my learning," she said,
"and it helped me learn how to give back to the city
instead of just taking from the city."
After three years in Lansing, she grew incredibly
homesick for Detroit. "I was also getting antsy. I was
so bored that I started driving back to Detroit on
Saturdays to work at the recycling center because I
missed it," she said. "I didn't really know what I was
planning on doing, but I knew that I wanted to be
here and be connected to this place."
Klegon explained that around the time she left
for Lansing, Recycle Here! started its program for
recycling education — Green Living Science. In 2007,
the program began as various competitions and
school assemblies but was ultimately turned into a
full-on nonprofit education program to which Klegon
applied to be executive director. Spoiler alert: She got
"Our organization is in a state that is most fun
for me because we have a really good platform, but
we're working on growing what we have," Klegon
"We're taking everything we have but making it
bigger and better. Right now, we're focusing heavily
on fundraising because we need to grow. We do
have some funds coming in, but funding is always a
problem, so that's a huge part of what I work on."
Klegon's tasks are wide-ranging. She also works
on curriculum development to make sure the program
is being taught correctly in the classroom. She's also
forging connections with schools and working closely
with the DPS administration, marketing, coming up
with new ideas for the program — the list goes on.
But how does Green Living Science help to make
Detroit a better place?
"Kids get excited about recycling. They feel
powerless most of their childhood, so recycling is
something they have to make a difference, and they
can do it every day and can help others and make their
city a better place. We see recycling as the inroad to
talking about living a greener, cleaner lifestyle. Talking
about trash will help transform the city into a place
these kids will want to grow up in."