It's Monday, so Amber Price is recycling.
For most homeowners in Tarrant County, this means tossing some old newspapers and empty Dr Pepper bottles into a bag or a bin. But Amber and her husband, Jonathan Price, live in an apartment — and there's no recycling pickup.
So it has become a ritual: At least once a week, Amber gets in the car and takes a bag of paper, plastic and aluminum castaways to a friend's or relative's home. She drops it all off so it can be picked up with their recyclables.
"Normally, I make two trips [each week]," Amber says, "because I don't like it to just sit there in the kitchen."
Amber has developed a small network of friends and relatives who are willing to take in her recycling. This afternoon, she guides the car west, weaving through well-kept blocks to her mother-in-law's house.
Nobody's home. She leaves her bags on the front porch, backs out of the driveway and heads home again.
It's only a few miles, but the special trip is a hassle. To keep it up, week after week, you have to really want to recycle.
Amber is dedicated. But she and Jonathan know that most of their neighbors aren't willing to go to this sort of trouble.
Maybe, the Prices think, they can push for a change. Then maybe no one in Euless will have to go to so much trouble to recycle.
Meet the Prices
Life before the Green Challenge
Amber has long been dedicated to recycling, eager to find green alternatives, willing to seek out local produce. She even takes recyclables home from school and the gym because she hates to see a plastic bottle in the trash. While Jonathan liked the idea of being Earth-friendly, he wasn’t as dedicated. He threw away things that could be recycled (while Amber picked through the trash to retrieve them). And he wasn’t sure what kind of effect two people could make.
The daily log
They bought and installed a programmable digital thermostat and they can program for each day. They installed a water filter on the kitchen faucet, eliminating the 70 or so water bottles they usually go through each month. They’ve started using energy-efficient light bulbs, which they like better than the old ones. And they ’ve come up with small ways to save energy — unplug appliances they aren’t using, turn off lights, change the air-conditioner filter and let dishes air-dry in the dishwasher.
What didnt work
They got a home energy audit from John Allen, an efficiency consultant from Reliant Energy. As renters, they couldn’t follow through on most of an energy auditor’s best suggestions for making their home more efficient. Increase insulation? Update appliances? Install double-paned windows? They couldn’t do any of that.
What was most painful
Jonathan started driving more slows down on the freeway to improve his gas mileage. Driving slower than 60 mph is one of the best things you can do to save gas — and it’s one of the least fun changes to make to your routine.
The next step
After some research, the Prices learned that although Euless has recycling pickup for apartments, many complexes don’t participate. Jonathan plans to approach the city with a proposal to make recycling participation mandatory for apartment complexes.
The Prices have other plans for ways they can make the world around them greener. They also want to push for tax incentives to start a farmers market, making it easier for Euless residents to find fresh, Texas-grown produce in Euless. And Amber is thinking about writing a grant proposal for a plastic-recycling program at her school.
"I think our challenge," Jonathan says, "is to write up a plan to help a lot of people. We can tackle the issue on a local, city level."
Instead of focusing on the limitations, the Prices have turned their efforts outward, pushing for change beyond their apartment door. If they succeed, it could affect every apartment dweller in Euless.
Why they won the Green Challenge
The judges commended Amber and Jonathan's long-term plan to question policy, take up issues and change their community.
One judge called their goal to educate apartment managers and residents "perfect."
"They have the ambition to work beyond the bounds of their private lives. Getting into the apartment communities, surveying complexes, etc. seems to have the chance to make a bigger difference, either by example or by action," said one judge. Another said, "These are such major changes of behavior ideas, the Prices deserve an award for just attempting to speak about [them]."
The Prices received $1,250 toward making their long-term green plans a reality.