Recycling has become common practice, but Girl Scout Mac learned that recycling properly is rare. Mac earned her Gold Award by creating a recycling patch program to teach kids, teens, and adults within the community about how to recycle items correctly. Understanding the topic might not interest everyone, Mac encouraged students in Las Vegas to tap into their creativity and worked with them to build a mural entirely out of recycled bottle caps. In doing so, they kickstarted a passion for the planet and generations to come.
The idea for Mac’s mural began after having a conversation with a tour guide named Jeremy at a local recycling center in Nevada. After talking with Jeremy, Mac said, “I thought my family and I were doing a pretty good job with our recycling practices but it turns out we were making mistakes, too. I didn't know that you had to rinse out food containers before recycling them or that the grease stains on a pizza box make it unrecyclable.”
Mac had a feeling she and her family weren’t the only ones who lacked proper recycling knowledge. After conducting more research, Mac was shocked to discover, “out of all the recyclable materials in the world, only 19% actually get properly recycled. For reference, 15 pounds of single-use water bottle caps equals 9,150 caps. If you take 19% of that, only 1,739 water bottles were recycled correctly leaving 7,411 in our landfills and oceans for hundreds of years to come.”
Learning this inspired Mac to address the lack of knowledge and resources made available for proper recycling in local neighborhoods. Her ultimate goal was to educate the community about the issue and what they could do to help. She also wished to do her part in keeping the oceans and entire planet clean by encouraging others to start incorporating better recycling habits into their routines through participating in her project. She adds, “To create awareness, I decided to build a 12’ x 8’ mural out of plastic bottle caps [and]created an educational patch program for kids to teach simple but impactful recycling rules, all while having fun.”
Along with creating a recycling-centric patch program and YouTube channel “Let’s Talk Trash: A Girl Scout Gold Award.,”
Mac was inspired by the Outdoor Art Creator Badge to create a large, three-panel mosaic mural made from recycled bottle caps. She collected bottle caps with students in the community and once completed, showcased the mural at youth events and public libraries in Las Vegas. The mural is currently on display at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas and was also featured globally across social media platforms. Mac then went on to create a trick-or-trash recycling program which encouraged students and fellow classmates to do their part in caring for the environment after Halloween festivities.
Mac’s many projects had their fair share of difficulties. After her efforts were slowed down due to the global pandemic, Mac faced more challenges. While she started out wanting to create an entire art curriculum, she knew it would be a lot of work. But these challenges didn’t discourage Mac. She pivoted her curriculum to a simpler program and focused on the virtual aspects of her project, which resulted in her YouTube channel and patch program, which reached people nationwide. Mac also realized she couldn’t do it alone and reached out to teachers and friends at her school and her parents, who all pitched in.
Along the way, Mac learned a lot about herself and had the opportunity to implement new leadership skills like time management, project delegation, planning, networking, and effective communication. Reflecting on her experience she says, “I learned that there’s room for improvement in my time management skills … I think knowing my tendency to procrastinate will help me in the future on other projects I take on. I also learned that I need to reach out for help when I need it. While it’s important for me to know that I can work through things on my own, I also need to remember to use the resources available to me and delegate where I can. I also learned that I am a better public speaker than I give myself credit for.”
With her mural still on display and patch program that will continue to be carried on by Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada, Mac’s efforts will inspire many for years to come. The extra bottle caps, left over after the mural was created, were donated to Me Hug, an organization in Mexico, which will turn them into toys and use the proceeds for childhood cancer patients. Additionally, other students and teachers at Mac’s school have decided to follow her lead and have started making plans to install their own recycled murals on campus.
Mac taught her community to see recycling differently and turn trash to treasure. And what started with a simple recycling facility tour turned into a movement, all led by Gold Award Girl Scout Mac.