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Fall 2009
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Original Earthkeepers, 1984

courtesy of Paul Mauger '84

The 1984 edition of Messiah College's yearbook, The Clarion, includes a photo of the students originally committed to recycling on campus. Paul is in the front row, far left.

History of Earthkeepers

Alum remembers beginnings of recycling on campus


The summer Bridge Online story featuring various initiatives of Messiah College to reduce, recycle and reuse spurred these memories in one reader's mind...

Earthkeepers’ history

Have you ever dreamed of a project only to find somebody steers you in a different direction, and their idea turns out better? This and other lessons awaited us Messiah College students in the early 80s as we launched what became Earthkeepers, a Messiah organization which still exists today.

Doug Jones ’84 and I needed to do a project for “Humankind and the Environment,” our chosen sophomore Gen. Ed. elective. I suggested we find a local high school that we could assist in starting a recycling program, like one I was familiar with growing up. (The non-profit organization still exists near Pottstown, Pa., under the name of Recycling Services, Inc. I have yet to meet another effort that recycles anywhere near as many types of materials as RSI.)

Earthkeepers do a rap to promote their cause.

courtesy of Paul Mauger '84

Mike Holland performs the Earthkeepers Rap to promote the organization in Chapel.

Accidental birth. We proposed the project to Professor Rich Stevick, who with his usual enthusiasm said, “What a great idea! Messiah could be a better steward of its waste.” I left thinking, Did he understand what I suggested? We concluded, however, that this might be God’s leading . . . and so Earthkeepers was born. 

We borrowed the group’s name with permission from an existing recycling organization at sister school Eastern Mennonite College in Virginia, who shared with us admiration for Loren Wilkenson’s book on Christian stewardship, Earthkeeping.

Just plain good will. What were we getting ourselves into? To recycle materials from dorms, offices, and classrooms all over campus—with student volunteers — was suddenly a daunting task. It was exciting to see how God provided volunteer students — about 30— and wholehearted cooperation of many staff, as well as college vehicles and storage space (the “Milo building,” down at the old entrance by the Yellow Breeches).

Students coordinated collection from each dorm and office building. Custodial staff cooperated by tolerating the collection containers and passing over recyclables on trash day. Printing services surpassed other offices in paper. Cafeteria staff member Ralph helped breakdown corrugated cardboard — and inspired me with a National Geographic article on “garbologists” at University of Arizona, which later led to my Penn State Master’s thesis — on garbage!

Students gather cardboard to recycle.

courtesy of Paul Mauger '84

Students gather cardboard boxes to recycle.

Help! One day when I rented a 24-foot box truck to haul materials to Harrisburg, the rental agent told me, “It’s geared really low — so you can start out in second if you want.” Oh, no, I thought, this thing has standard transmission, and I just learned how to drive standard last week — in a half-hour lesson from my girlfriend (Nancy [Ristau] Mauger ’84 – now my wife). Naturally I said nothing and drove the truck— VERY slowly and not too smoothly — back to campus and sought out a friend to drive to Harrisburg for me.

Over time Professor Gary Emberger became the group’s advisor. Like Dr. Stevick, he provided guidance while giving us plenty of freedom to develop the organization.

Ahead of our time? With conviction that Earthkeepers was God’s idea, I believe the group was truly forward thinking. I remember we committed ourselves expressly to setting up Earthkeepers in such a way as to recycle as much of the College’s solid waste as we could until later on when legislation would inevitably make it mandatory. I understand this is how it panned out. No longer needed for campus recycling, Earthkeepers continues seeking other ways to practice stewardship of the planet entrusted to our care.

Value beyond the recycle bin. Earthkeepers was a great leadership experience. It was a tangible project to address a real, unmet need, and an opportunity to mobilize resources and people to meet the need. We learned to plan, set goals, delegate, and cooperate with peers and authorities, on and off campus. And, like with so many other college activities, we made lifetime friends.

— by Paul Mauger '84

Paul serves with Latin America Mission, on loan to ESEPA Seminary, San Jose, Costa Rica, training Latin Americans to serve cross-culturally in Missions and Development work in other parts of the world. He graduated from Messiah in 1984 with a B. A. in biology, minor in Christian education., after which he completed an M.S. in Agricultural Economics at Penn State. His wife Nancy is also a 1984 Messiah graduate, and their son Daniel is just finishing home school, and hopes to go to Messiah next year. They love spending their furloughs in Grantham!

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