Going Green In Oakland County

Oakland County has a million different reasons its NO HAZ program is a success.
Scratch that, they have a million pounds of reasons for its success. The North Oakland Household Hazardous Waste Consortium, which represents 15 communities, has collected more than a million pounds of hazardous waste since its inception seven years ago.

“We just have had a huge increase,” says Whitney Calio, environmental program coordinator for the Oakland County Waste Resource Management Division. “It’s certainly been catching on.”

So much so that the county has scheduled four collection events this year, up from only three in 2008.

Calio says response to the program necessitated another collection, adding that a large chunk of the credit has to go to an increasingly environmentally conscious populace.

“I think people are thinking more green now,” says Calio, “so I think that’s certainly playing into it as well.”

Residents of any of the 15 NO HAZ communities – Addison, Commerce, Groveland, Lake Angelus, Lake Orion, Leonard, Oakland, Orion, Oxford, Oxford Township, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Waterford, White Lake and Wolverine Lake – can bring their household hazardous waste to any of the collection events for safe disposal.

Such waste includes unused or leftover cleaner, paint, pesticides, batteries or prescription medications that, if not properly disposed, could be harmful to the environment or public health.

Calio explains that, for example, prescription medications that are flushed down the toilet could contaminate the water supply or seep into the soil.

The first NO HAZ collection event will be held Saturday, April 25, at Walled Lake Northern High School. Subsequent dates will be on May 30 at Oakland University, and on Sept. 12 and Oct. 17 at yet-to-be-determined locations.

It turns out the NO HAZ program isn’t the only Oakland County environmental program earning high marks: The number of Oakland County schools participating in the Michigan Green Schools Program has doubled this year.

The statewide initiative encourages both private and public schools adopt eco-friendly and energy-saving programs in order to be deemed a “Michigan Green School.”
The program started at a Livingston County high school in 2005 and prompted Gov. Jennifer Granholm to sign the program into law statewide in May 2006.

In its second year participating in the program, Oakland County is home to 96 schools with the designation.

“Last year, it was 45 [schools],” says Calio. “So it is a very big increase.”
And the reasons for the increase may be as practical as they are altruistic.
“A lot of schools are looking to save money,” she says.

The program may be undergoing changes after this school year. There is now a statewide effort to amend the Michigan Green Schools law to give schools more flexibility in the types of eco-friendly activities that will grant them the green designation.

“Currently, the 20 activities the schools can participate in are written into the law,” says Calio. “This does not allow for any flexibility on our part, or any unique projects that the schools may come up with. Also, we feel that if the points change a little each year, the program will be a living program, and not one that the schools just submit the same paperwork each year.”

Oakland County’s Michigan Green Schools will be honored at a special ceremony at the Oakland Schools building April 20.

For more information on the NO HAZ program or Michigan Green Schools, call the Oakland County Waste Resource Management Division at 248-858-1352 or 248-858-1619, or e-mail at WRMD@oakgov.com.