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San Rafael Students Make Their Mark On The World With Markers

By Garvin Thomas
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 3:45 PM PDT
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From what to eat, to what to watch, the what to wear, 'no' is a word many kids hear a lot. But for one group of San Rafael elementary students, 'no' is an answer they would not accept.

From what to eat, to what to watch, the what to wear, 'no' is a word many kids hear a lot. But for one group of San Rafael elementary students, 'no' is an answer they would not accept.

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Every Wednesday at noon the multi-purpose room at  San Rafael's Sun Valley Elementary School takes on a very single-minded purpose: saving the world.

It is when and where the school's environmental club, the Green Team, meets to discuss and, ultimately, fix the earth's pollution problem.

It may seem a tall task for such short people, but the Green Team already has an impressive track record of success.

"I've watched little leaders in the making," said Land Wilson, the club's leader and parent of two school-age children, "and it's been one of the highlights of my life."

Wilson, an author or children's books with environmental themes, says it was during a discussion last year of recycling that the problem of disposable markers came up, particularly those made by Crayola.

"They make half a billion of them each year," Land said, "enough to go around the world three times."

The markers, however, were not recyclable. It was something that bothered the students, Land said.

So the Green Team called Crayola and asked if they would consider establishing their own program wherein they would take back the old markers rather than have them end up in a landfill.

"We called and asked if there were anyone we could talk to," Land said. "We talked to the product safety department and they said no, there's no one here you can talk to about that. Sorry."

Land says he gave the students the option of stopping there and accepting Crayola's response, or they could keep fighting. The students chose to keep going.

A petition was started on the website Change.org asking for Crayola to start a take-back program for their markers.

More than 90,000 people ended up signing the petition. Other elementary schools across the country added their voices to those of the Sun Valley students.

Eventually their pleas grew loud enough that one of Crayola's competitors, Dixon Ticonderoga, agreed to start their own recycling program.

Crayola, not long after that, followed suit. Land was the one who delivered the news to the team, "I just have memories of children jumping up and down."

There are now 600 schools that have signed up with Crayola to recycle their markers.

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