July 20, 2012
What do child care cribs have to do with sustainability goals? About 40 tons worth! Due to new safety standards for cribs, GSA Child Care Centers had over 1300 cribs that could no longer be used. In support of GSA’s waste diversion goals, Regional Child Care Coordinators worked with Regional Solid Waste/Recycling Coordinators to divert over 40 tons of cribs from landfills and incinerators. Materials were either recycled or reused for creative use projects.
The Pacific Rim Region’s Success, by Nicolas Christensen
Daunting at first, when I learned about this project I saw a lot of possibilities to align with GSA agency wide environmental goals. Being in San Francisco, I was lucky to have many tools and opportunities to reuse or re-purpose the 76 cribs in our 9 child care centers. The Environmental Solid Waste and Recycling team in Central Office; Lena Kofas and Sandy Skolochenko, provided invaluable connections to recycling vendors region-wide. After some research, I found two Bay Area companies interested in acquiring some of our cribs.
The first was the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a company built on the idea that unwanted items could be saved from the landfill and given back to the community to be reused or re-purposed, or even used for art projects and other alternatives. The director was very excited to receive 10 of our cribs to use as on-site examples of ways that items could be re-purposed into different objects than the manufacturer had originally intended. The second company was the Adventure Playground in Berkeley, CA where supervised children are allowed to work with tools to build their ideal playground. The five cribs they accepted will be incorporated into the existing playground in whatever ways the children can imagine!
The child care director in Hawaii took this project one step further by deciding to keep the six cribs at her center. Here, they were dismantled on-site and re-purposed to build such items as easels, magazine racks and gross motor equipment.
A remaining 55 cribs were transported to a local recycling vendor. One year prior to the deadline, Region 9 replaced all cribs with high quality cribs which meet the new standards, and the old cribs have been re-purposed or recycled within their local communities.
Leading the Industry
All child care centers across the nation (not only GSA centers) will also need to replace their cribs to meet the new standard. Because GSA closely followed the regulation updates, we were positioned to refresh the cribs one year before the required date. The child care division worked with crib manufacturers early and communicated our project goal to prevent the cribs going to landfills. This brought new awareness to manufacturers and many responded with similar waste-diversion strategies and recycling opportunities for the obsolete crib materials.