Last time I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Hurley about Cans to Cans (C2C), the organization had not completed one full rotation of its cycle of giving back to the Charlottesville community. The cycle consists of collecting beer cans from UVa fraternities, taking the cans to a local recycling plant in exchange for money (x pounds of aluminum cans yields y cents), and then donating the money to Loaves and Fishes, a local food bank. Back in February during the first C2C interview, Jeremy mentioned a few hurdles the group had to overcome. Now that we are almost at the end of the semester, how is C2C faring? I figure that the easiest way to explain C2C’s progress is through describing the cycle itself in more detail (especially since other universities have reached out to Jeremy in hopes of starting their own C2C programs!).
Thanks to a variety of funding sources such as UVa Student Council (“StudCo” to us Wahoos), the Environmental Impact Subcommittees, and other students, C2C is able to do a competition among fraternities that are signed up for its “pilot program,” so-named because C2C hopes to continue expanding to more than the 5 fraternities that have signed up. In fact, organizations outside of Greek Life at UVa have e-mailed Jeremy about having C2C pick ups at their events! Anyway, the initial pilot program competition will begin in the Fall 2015 semester. Fraternities will compete to see who will have the most aluminum recycled. They can even track their progress on the new, nifty C2C website.
So, let’s begin at the beginning of the cycle once fraternities have put their cans into bags. C2C volunteers and UVa Sustainability employees will collect the bags on bikes. Yup, bikes. C2C emphasizes being zero-waste whenever possible! C2C has secured a storage shed that will be located in one of the UVa parking lots. Once the storage shed is full of bags, it’s time to deliver the bags to the recycling center.
Cans to… the Recycling Center!
Once again, UVa Sustainability employees are here to help out! They take the bags from the shed and transport them to the recycling center in Charlottesville. Based off of the weight of the aluminum cans, the money received then goes toward a donation to Loaves and Fishes.
Cans to Cans: Full Circle
With the donation, Loaves and Fishes can purchase goods for families and individuals that need them. Last Saturday, some of us from C2C went to help out Loaves and Fishes. Work consisted of greeting people at the door and helping them sign in to stocking their shopping carts as they passed by. The shift leader emphasized how it’s important that we offer visitors choices so people can make decisions based on diet and personal interest. For example, there were a variety of breads to choose from so families could select a loaf or package of flat breads based on what they planned to prepare for the following week. I personally got to offer sweet potatoes, grapes, and apples. People had the option to select some of the options or all of them! Everyone seemed quite pleased with the grapes, as they often told me that they had children at home that love to eat grapes.
While volunteering, we learned that some of the food is donated and other food is purchased by Loaves and Fishes. If you have extra cans around at home, consider donating them! Although some of the products were visually dissimilar to what you would see in a grocery store isle (i.e. a can banged up on one side or a box containing Capri Suns slightly open), they weren’t thrown away. Instead, these food products are still able to go to someone who will consume them rather than go to waste.
In the end, Cans to Cans made a donation that was the equivalent of 596.75 lbs of chicken noodle soup, 1785.89 lbs of turkey sausage links, 1685.79 lbs of rice krispie treats, OR 874.35 lbs of corn. It felt great to volunteer for a morning and see how many people Cans to Cans can help! by the end of the morning, 97 community members came through to be receive food, and together, the 97 individuals represented almost 400 people!
Looking to volunteer at Loaves and Fishes? Check out their website for more information!