• This Is Rutherford

Kerry O'Keefe's Girl Scout Project

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

By Jennifer Ersalesi


Rutherford High School Senior Kerry O’Keefe recently completed a Girl Scout project tailored to the students in the Rutherford School District. This is Rutherford spoke with Kerry O’Keefe about this valuable project and why it is important to her.


TIR: How long have you been involved in Girl Scouts?

KO: I’ve been participating in Girl Scouts ever since I was 5 years old.


TIR: How did you choose this particular project about recycling?

KO: I have always had a love for marine animals and the ocean so I wanted my project to be about ocean pollution. While researching the issue I learned that prevention is probably more important than a cleanup. Around the same time, I heard that some students in our district were not aware that we recycle in school. I decided to start locally to bring awareness about both recycling and the need to reduce the amount of waste we create overall especially single-use plastic.



TIR: You are working toward your Girl Scout Gold Award, can you explain more about that?

KO: The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a girl can earn in scouting. Less than 6% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn their Gold Award. To earn a Gold Award you have to spend at least 80 hours planning and implementing a project that reaches beyond Girl Scouts and provides a sustainable, lasting community impact.


TIR: December is the month when schools focus on responsibility. How does your project help children learn more about being responsible at school and at home?

KO: Being responsible is about making good choices and doing the right thing. My project is making students aware that the right thing to do for the environment is to reduce the amount of waste we produce. It’s easy to bring a disposable plastic bottle in your lunch every day but it’s not the responsible choice. I’m hoping that by being aware of what can and cannot be recycled that students will develop responsible habits and that they will all share the information they learned with their families.


TIR: What do you want children and adults to understand about recycling?

KO: There are a few things I want people to understand about recycling. The first is that recycling has limitations, especially for plastics so reducing and reusing are better choices. Of course, that doesn’t mean to not recycle an item that you can recycle. The second is that you need to recycle correctly. In Rutherford, we recycle paper, glass, food and drink cartons, aluminum and steel cans, and plastics #1, #2 and #5. It’s important to check for the numbers. All material that goes into recycling must be clean and dry with no food residue. Kids can’t really wash and dry their recyclable containers in school so unfortunately, that means they have to put them in the trash. To avoid that, students should try to pack a waste-free lunch in a reusable bag with reusable drink and food containers.


The Kindergarten Center, Lincoln, Washington, Pierrepont, Union, Rutherford High Schools and the Bulldog Academy all have a set of five posters that encourage students and staff to recycle. I also created a PowerPoint presentation for older students and a video for younger students.

Posters created by Kerry O'Keefe. The black and white bulldog graphic is the cover of the coloring book that was given to each student. Art work by: Ryan Fried

I would also like adults to take some time to review what can be recycled in Rutherford. Google “Rutherford recycling” for additional information.