Leesburg community to represent Va. in national recycling challenge

Cyn Loughran has been an avid recycler for decades — the kind who diligently rinses and sorts every glass jar and even brings home plastic cups and bottles from restaurants that don’t have recycling bins. And now that her Loudoun County community is representing Virginia in a national recycling competition, her dedication to the cause continues to grow.

The Lakes at Red Rock, a subdivision east of Leesburg, is one of fifty communities — one from each state — competing for a $100,000 grant as part of the SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge, a national contest that encourages families to step up their recycling efforts. One month into the six-month challenge, the Lakes at Red Rock community is just getting started.

“Our neighborhood is really very happy to have been chosen to be a part of this,” Loughran, 59, said. “Other people are getting on board, giving suggestions. . . . I’m encouraging other neighbors to come up with ideas for all of us to work together.”

The community with the highest reported recycling participation will win the grant, which must be used to fund a local sustainability project, SC Johnson said in a statement.

Each community’s participation is measured by RecycleBank, a company that uses a point-based system to offer rewards — with incentives such as discounts on groceries and other products — to residents who take steps to make their daily lives more Earth-friendly. More than 300 communities in the United States and Britain participate in Recycle-Bank, the company said.

Liz Mills, a member of the Lakes at Red Rocks board of directors, said the community joined RecycleBank last month. Soon after, the company approached the subdivision about joining the contest.

The decision to participate was a “no-brainer,” Mills said. “We were pretty vocal about it.”

At first, there was talk that another community in Richmond might represent Virginia in the contest. But Mills said she wasn’t surprised that Lakes at Red Rock was selected, given its location in Loudoun.

“We’re one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing counties in the nation,” she said. “There’s a lot of product-buying here, and a lot of recycling going on.”

Mills said the response from the community, which has about 400 families, has been enthusiastic. The residents were already environmentally conscious, Mill said, but the contest has been an added incentive.

“We’ve definitely stepped up our recycling. We’re making sure that everyone records what they’re doing on a weekly basis, and we’re very proactive about getting the message out,” she said. “We e-mail residents on a weekly basis, and we do have monthly meetings about updating residents on the challenge.”

Beyond the goal of winning the grant, the contest aims to instill recycling habits that will continue beyond the six-month challenge period. The contest also supports SC Johnson’s goal of becoming landfill-neutral by 2016, the company said. With the help of RecycleBank and the participating communities across the country, 480 million pounds of waste can be eliminated from the nation’s landfills, more than the company’s U.S. waste footprint, SC Johnson said.

The contest runs through the end of the year. The results will be announced in January.

An online leader board will track the progress of the competing communities every month. The first-month results will be posted this week, company representatives said.

The community’s board is just starting to consider how it might use the grant money if it wins the challenge, Mills said.

Loughran said she hopes residents will rally around a shared goal, because doing so might provide added motivation to win.

She has a few ideas of her own, such as a small-scale hydro-
electric plant at the community’s lake or an array of solar panels. The community could sell the generated electricity back to the power company for a rebate, she said.

“Both of those options would save on the use of fossil fuels, and they would be long-term sustainability projects that I think would just be fantastic,” she said.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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