Imagine a sea of blue. Not the calm cerulean of the ocean, but a chaotic sky blue tinged with brown. This is the sea of blue tubes taking up residence in the barn of The Nature Conservancy. The tubes were once wrapped around newly planted trees to protect them from weather, deer, and rodents. Once they were pulled off, the tubes were stockpiled in TNC’s barn and have since gone unused. Due to weathering in the field as well as the stagnant state in the barn, the tubes amassed detritus and so could not be reused or sent to the recycling center.
Most of us know that here at Green Mountain College, all students must complete a capstone course which requires a Delicate Balance project. The project must serve a genuine need, engage personal interest, and be doable yet significant. After asking a local TNC contact what I could do to help the organization, blue tube recycling came up as a topic. TNC has a need for volunteer help, and surely would need someone to do this job that otherwise there wouldn’t be time for. I had previously volunteered on a day of tube pulling early in the spring, and so had an interest in seeing the project to completion. Organizing a volunteer event would be doable, but it was the aspect of educating the volunteers about TNC and its projects that I thought would make my project significant.
After much collaborating and planning, we decided to hold a volunteer event that would focus on washing the dirt off of the tubes, then stacking and tying them together so that they can be shipped to the recycling center. Given that the total amount is around 20,000 blue tubes, our goal for the day was in the 500-1000 tube range, depending on how many volunteers came. The event came about on October 15th, and was held at the Ward Farm, a preserve owned by TNC. In addition to TNC volunteer coordinator Dylan O’Leary and myself, eight volunteers joined us to assist with washing and stacking the blue tubes. Because it was the first run with this particular project, the washing method hadn’t quite been optimized. However, The Nature Conservancy plans on continuing this project, and the more this task is performed, the more efficient the process will become. Even still, we were able to wash a little over 800 tubes in just a few hours.
In a small, sustainable community like ours, the efforts of TNC don’t go unnoticed. Every volunteer and every project makes an impact, but we need to maximize our efforts. We should engage with these organizations that support our beliefs and educate others about the opportunities that surround us.