Carmel Family Collects Trash on Purpose

Traveling across the country with a minivan full of trash doesn’t sound like my idea of vacation, but that’s what one family from Carmel has done this summer – and for a good reason.

The Kendrick family is driving cross-country to Yosemite, California, and stopping at 11 national parks along the way, all the while holding on to their trash (including food scraps) for the first 10 days of their trip. For the last 20 days, they’ll be learning how to travel with zero waste.

Full disclosure – one of my daughter’s previous preschool teachers is the mom, Samantha, in this family. Her husband, Josh, is a seventh-grade teacher in Carmel and received a $12,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment for this project. One hundred K-12 teachers in Indiana received funding through the Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant program.

The pair and their two children, ages 13 and 10, are updating their blog along the way; read it here.

I’ve heard of people who live a zero-waste lifestyle, but I can’t imagine putting that into practice or even where to start such an initiative in my own life. That’s another of the messages from the Kendricks: They’re a typical Midwestern family with two children. If they can do it, maybe I can as well?

Or, can I at least consider what I’m throwing into the trash can?

The Indy Star has more on the family’s adventures:

It certainly was an eye-opening experience for Kendrick and his family as they inventoried their “landfill” Monday at Grand Teton National Park. 

Among their haul: numerous plastic food bags, tin foil for baked potatoes, ketchup splattered napkins, and lots and lots of straws and plastic cutlery. They’ve also kept all leftover food, such as french fries, apple cores, cantaloupe rinds and hamburger buns. 

After sorting through, the Kendricks composted the food and other items they could and recycled the materials that qualified at the park’s facilities. The family cleaned a few containers they plan to reuse and then had to toss the rest. 

With their bins emptied, all four are looking forward to the next 20 days and a trash free car. 

“Collecting everything is a pain and having to keep it all, it kind of puts you down to see that you use that much,” said Kendrick’s 13-year-old son, Nathan. “But it’s a wonderful trip, and I love the idea.”

His younger sister, Addie, echoed that sentiment. 

“At first I thought there was no way this was possible and that dad was just making up a crazy idea,” the 10-year-old said. “But it has been an eye-opening experiment.” 

That creativity and drive is a large part of what the Lilly Endowment saw in the Creekside Middle School teacher’s proposal, according to Endowment spokeswoman Judith Cebula. 

It’s about taking a commitment to the environment and learning more deeply how one person can make a difference,” she said. “Also, it reflects a commitment to taking what he learns this summer … and finding a way to share what he experiences with his students when he goes back to school in the fall.” 

Kendrick hopes to be able to show other families that they all can be more aware of what they are throwing away and the impact it has on the environment. He also wants to give examples of accessible changes a family can make to reduce its waste. 

Those ideas are still to come over the next 20 days as the Kendricks continue to the west coast and then make their way back to Indianapolis in July. 

“If we don’t change how we are living, these treasures of our national parks that we are showing our children and the water and the air will not remain the same,” he said. “So we need to change how we are doing things.” 

A Major Flaw in the Education System

A New Jersey teacher was caught on camera mocking and threatening violence toward a 15-year-old special needs student. But the teacher is unlikely to lose his job due to rules and regulations that make it very difficult — and expensive — to terminate someone.

Difficult as in a 15-step process that could take between two and five years to complete. Expensive as in from $300,000 to $500,000.

The Education Action Group recently reported:

It only takes three years in New Jersey to become a tenured teacher. The Garden State’s teacher tenure laws are so deeply flawed that 77 percent of state residents support tenure reform. Gov. Chris Christie, as well as legislative Democrats and Republicans, have offered reform plans.

The current process begins by formally bringing tenure charges against a teacher. Then the real work begins.
After months of gathering evidence, the investigator shares his findings with the district superintendent and the state commissioner of education. If both officials certify the charges, the case is sent to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law and a trial is scheduled.
The trial itself can last up to four years. The accused teacher doesn’t mind, because after 120 calendar days, he or she collects full pay for the remainder of the process. School districts not only have to pay that salary, but must hire substitutes to fill in for the suspended teacher and pay lawyers to pursue the termination case.
During the trial, witnesses are called to testify and a judge typically asks the attorneys to file legal briefs. All of that can take 30 to 90 days. Then the judge will make a decision in the case, which typically takes another three or four months.
The state commissioner of education then reviews the judge’s decision and issues a final decision. That often takes another two or three months.
But in many cases, those days, weeks and months can stretch into years. Judges typically hear these cases on days they have available – perhaps one day one week, then two days a few weeks later.
When the entire process is finally complete and the teacher is found guilty, he or she has the option of appealing the decision, if another court will agree to hear it.