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IOWATER Stories

Plant Recapture -- Helping Kids Reconnect with Nature

On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, on 9/11/11, a group of about fifty kids, parents, old friends, and our new friends from the IDNR, Dr. Mary Skopec and Lynette Seigley, recaptured Willow Creek Park in Iowa City. In the first event of a movement called PlanetRecapture, we collected recyclables, cleaned up trash, and performed IOWATER testing with equipment donated by the IDNR. Then we played Capture the Flag, and had a great party.

All our lives my brother, Andrew and I have loved nature. Hearing the rumble of melting glacier avalanches on Mt. Rainier, rafting Champagne Rapids on the Snake River, exploring the Quinault rainforest, canoeing on Lake McBride, or mountain biking the singletrack along Clear Creek in Iowa City, have given us an urge to protect nature. That’s why we worked with a group of friends to start PlanetRecapture.

PlanetRecapture is a grassroots movement to bring kids, parents, and friends into nature in our communities. We have many bodies of water and threatened areas that need help, and lots of opportunities for PlanetRecapture groups.

PlanetRecapture works in any school or community group because we make our work fun! Here’s how:

·         When we clean up local waterways and parks, we recycle, reuse, or redeem everything we can.

·         When we test water quality with our IOWATER kits, we divide into small groups to collect our data, and later, upload it to the IOWATER database.

·         We play Capture the Flag where we cleaned and did our testing, usually in a wooded area. Planet Recapture members neither use toy guns nor play war games. No side is the “good guys” or “bad guys” and no one is “the enemy”.

·         Then we have a party with food donated by local businesses.

Some of our accomplishments include: having over one-hundred people participate since September, and spending over 170 person hours on cleanup and water testing. We have recycled, redeemed, or removed over 1,000 pounds of cans, bottles, tires, scrap metal, and trash from the Willow Creek area in Iowa City, and have uploaded over sixteen pages of data to the IOWATER database.

Recently, Weber Elementary in Iowa City approved PlanetRecapture as an official part of the school, and we are working to establish a large independent group at that school.  Several other schools are on track to having independent groups too.

We can improve water quality in two ways: by taking pollution out, or by stopping it at its source. PlanetRecapture does both.

Schools and community groups undertake many projects such as Box Tops for Education or collecting aluminum pop can tabs to recycle for charity.  But are they sustainable or good for kids’ health? One school in Iowa City collected over 100 pounds of pop tabs in 2011. That’s about 110,000 cans of soda, which costs over $30,000. 110,000 cans also contain about 10,000 pounds of sugar, and have a carbon footprint of about 15,400 pounds (only for cans, not contents). After all that, the school raised $65.   

The box tops collected for the same school brought in $1,806 (one box top is worth $.10) from 18,060 boxes. Most brand-name cereals, for example, cost 20-60% more per pound than generic, bulk, or even organic bulk cereals such as granola or rolled oats.  

PlanetRecapture has a Fundraising Pledge: for a week or month, we don’t drink soda, and only eat generic, bulk, or bulk organic cereals. Part of the money our family saves we donate to our school or charity. That way, each family can save and raise much more money, do it sustainably, and eat much better food.

PlanetRecapture is needed in many other organizations outside of schools. We recently played in one of the largest indoor soccer tournaments in Iowa. The soccer club sold sports drinks to raise money. No recycling was available, so thousands of sports drink bottles were thrown away. Could they have raised more money by selling sports drinks made from reverse osmosis water (which a local food co-op promised to donate) mixed with sports drink powder? Kids could refill their aluminum water bottles and pay less than buying a sports drink in a plastic bottle. (For about $9 you can make 10 gallons of the drink).  Members of PlanetRecapture plan to help this soccer club implement this at the next tournament.

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