How to make a dent?
That can feel like an insurmountable task. Especially if you don't have a lot to begin with, or you're just a kid with no say when it comes to things like budget cuts and whether you're going to have art, drama or after-school sports next year.
Never mind things like wide-ruled paper, a Zip drive or $4 for that field trip to the Center for the Arts.
Thanks to a couple of dynamos — a stay-at-home mom of four and a grandmother who is raising a 6-year-old granddaughter — the kids at Gulfside Elementary are doing their part, turning their trash into cash and school equipment while greening up their school.
Anastacia Rash, 35, and Diane Burton, 60, are a constant daily presence, going through pounds of trash and recruiting kids like Victoria Economos, 10, who is eager to direct her peers to the recycling bin during her daily safety patrol stint outside the cafeteria.
Recycling is important, she said, "because it helps the Earth, and we can reuse things so we don't have to cut down more trees."
It's helpful to get kids, their parents and the community to keep trash out of the landfill and bring it to school.
From there it goes to Burton's garage in Holiday, where it's sorted and shipped to various recycling programs sponsored by Coca-Cola Recycling Program, Pepsi and Waste Management, and their latest venture with a company called Terracycle.
For the green at heart, there's a bounty of items that aren't on the typical recycle list that Terracycle will take and turn into something else — candy wrappers, yogurt cups, empty tape dispensers, glue bottles and the plastic store wrapping on paper towels and toilet paper. Done with that grated cheese? They'll take the wrapper. Empty tube of toothpaste? That, too, along with your old toothbrush.
"It's all stuff the county won't pick up; stuff you can't recycle in your blue bags," said Rash, who discovered the program while surfing the Internet. "And we get money for it. Two cents for a candy wrapper and 2 cents for the drink pouches."
That might seem like small change, but it adds up — $634 so far this year funneled into the school's ABC program to help needy students or to buy classroom supplies.
That doesn't include the rewards from other programs that include technical equipment, gift cards or the camcorder the school received as a gift just for signing on with Coke. Then there's "Shoes for a Cure.". Old shoes are sent for recycling, but when Gulfside's disadvantaged kids are in need, the organization is quick to come through with a gently used pair.
Every little bit helps, said principal Chris Clayton, especially in a Title 1 school where 80 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
"With the economy and so many people out of work, we've scaled back on our fundraisers," Clayton said. "This doesn't cost anyone anything. You're just putting your trash someplace else."
The added funds are great, but it's not just about the money.
"We want to help teach these kids how to recycle — how to make the world better, because this is our future," Rash said. "I don't think my generation has done a good job with that.''
"And we want to give back to the community," Burton said, noting that some cans brought in are sent to Richey Elementary in New Port Richey. Students there are collecting scrap metal to raise money for a school playground. Other efforts, such as sending plastic bottle tops to the Aveda recycling program, don't net any money at all.
"But it keeps them out of the landfill," Burton said.
And perhaps, it makes a dent.