Students Against Global Abuse at Herndon High School (SAGA) Partnership with MMS -Taking the Initiative, Reston, Virginia.

Paul Harris, MMS Recycling Coordinator
Minerals Management Service, Herndon, VA
Phone: (703) 787-1188
Email: Paul.Harris@mms.gov


The Support Services Branch for MMS partnered with Students Against Global Abuse (SAGA) at Herndon High School to reinvigorate a sluggish recycling effort at the Elden Street office in Herndon, Virginia. Presently, some 100 area businesses (31 buildings) rely on SAGA collection and recycling services. SAGA's work at MMS involves a bi-weekly visit to the Herndon office to collect white paper, colored paper, newspaper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. SAGA also conducts an advertising campaign at MMS periodically to remind employees about the recycling program and the importance of group participation to benefit the environment and local students. From the sale of recyclables this year, SAGA raised $250,000 dollars for educational scholarships. Part of this amount consists of $1,500 dollars received from the sale of a ton of aluminum. Since the partnership's formation, MMS steadily boosted its recycling program through increased employee involvement. This partnership yielded a significant increase in tonnage of recyclables, from 1.0 to 1.8 tons per month, in less than one year.

Detailed Description

Students Against Global Abuse (SAGA) is an environmental student-run organization started at Herndon High School (HHS) in the fall of 1989. SAGA's recycling program is concerned with protecting and preserving the natural environment, not only at HHS, but throughout Northern Virginia.

Today, SAGA involves more than 100 students in over 25 schools, as well as their sponsors, which include more than 150 local small businesses, large corporations, and local government agencies. SAGA also works cooperatively and collaboratively with its supporters to educate them on how to recycle materials and comply with recycling laws and regulations. The money received from the recyclable materials is used to fund college scholarships for students involved in the SAGA. For example, a ton of white office paper is worth up to $200 dollars, which is a significant sum of money for a future college student.

SAGA's Work at MMS

SAGA's work at MMS involves a bi-weekly visit to the Herndon office to collect white paper, colored paper, newspaper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. The MMS is SAGA's largest recycling job with an average of 1.8 tons of recyclables per month. The collected recyclables are transported to local recycling centers where they are marketed for cash.

In addition to SAGA's recycling efforts, SAGA volunteers monitor the MMS building's compliance, which includes training the MMS staff on the use of separate containers.

SAGA's Excellence in Cooperative Conservation

SAGA's efforts in cooperative conservation include diverse communities throughout the local Northern Virginia area. SAGA accomplishes this cooperative effort through discussions and education on the importance of recycling: it reduces the waste mainstream, it saves natural resources, and it reduces demand and use for more energy.

Community Involvement:

  • Over 300 Herndon, Reston, and Sterling businesses, churches and libraries are recycling today as a result of the SAGA Recycling Program. Presently, some 100 area businesses (31 buildings) rely on SAGA collection and recycling services.
  • Over 25 area elementary, middle and high schools are recycling today as a result of SAGA assistance and support.
  • Over 50 SAGA members provide recycling expertise/support to 2,700 HHS students/staff in a schoolwide recycling program. Many students and staff have begun home recycling projects as a result of SAGA. Over 25,000 Herndon/Reston/Sterling students, businessmen and women have participated in SAGA programs since 1990.

SAGA's Impact

As Margaret Meade said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." This quotation describes well the impact a group of students like those involved in SAGA's program can have through community volunteerism for maintaining the environment.

SAGA's conducts an advertising campaign periodically to remind people about the recycling program and how group participation can affect the environment and local students. Recycling reduces air and water pollution in the production of aluminum (95%) and paper (74%) over production using raw materials.

At MMS, the recycle logo is designed to serve as a visual reminder of the program and to increase efforts by individuals to recycle.

From the sale of recyclables this year, SAGA raised $250,000 dollars for educational scholarships. Part of that amount consists of $1500.00 dollars received from the sale of a ton of aluminum.

The SAGA's program is also easily adaptable to other government agencies and private companies.

Improvements to the Environment through SAGA:

Recycled Material (through school year 2005 ending in June):

Material Amount
White office paper: 1,088 tons /2,116,000 lbs.
Plastic containers 1.8 tons per month
Aluminum cans: 74 tons /148,000 lbs./3,848,000 cans
Mixed paper /cardboard: 160 tons /320,000 lbs.
Newspaper/books: 190 tons /380,000 lbs.
Totals: 1,512 tons/3,024,000 lbs.

Natural Resource Benefit:

Resource Benefit
28,760 20-year old trees saved. 17-24 trees per ton (paper)
10,066,000 gallons of pure, fresh water saved. Paper production from recycled sources reduces water use by 50% and water & air pollution by 35% and 74% from 7,800 gallons saved per ton of recycled paper. Aluminum production from recycled sources, as opposed to bauxite ore, reduces both air & water pollution by 95%.
4,536 cubic yards of landfill space saved; a 3-square foot area, 2.8 miles high. Some $52,920 of landfill tipping fees saved on an average of $35 dollars for each ton of refuse recycled since 1990.

Energy Resources Saved*

6,048,000 kilowatt hrs. saved from 1,512 tons of recycled paper/aluminum. Paper production from virgin wood pulp requires some 4,000 additional kilowatt hours per ton. A ton of recycled paper requires 75% less energy to produce. Aluminum production from recycled sources reduces energy requirements some 95%; recycling one aluminum can saves as much energy as it takes to run a television set for four hours.
2,470440 gallons of gasoline saved. For each aluminum can recycled an (720,340) energy equivalent of 1/2 gallon of gasoline is saved, and 380 gallons for each ton of recycled paper. *Note: The numbers above were provided by EPA and North Carolina State University.

SAGA's Accomplishments

SAGA's accomplishments in cooperative, conservation service range from recipient of environmental awards to its public recognition through the news media: the Herndon Observer article, "SAGA and MMS Join in Recycling Effort" by Erin E. Fogg, 2005 and the Herndon Times article, "Fighting Apathy About Recycling" by Kali Schumitz, 2005.

SAGA has been the recipient of the following environmental awards:

1991   American Paper Institute (National Recycling Award) Tree Action's Arbor Day Youth Award (Community) Virginia Governor's Environmental Excellence Award (State of Virginia)

1992    Tree Action's Annual Education Award (Community) Virginia Recycling Association Education Award, VRA (State of Virginia)

1993    "A Pledge & A Promise," Anheuser-Busch, Sea World & Busch Gardens, Nation's Top Environmental Education Award, Grades 9-12 (National)

Congresswoman Leslie Byrne honors SAGA with a special resolution on the floor of the U.S. Congress (National)

1994   Washington's Council of Governments, COG, Business Recycling Award "Friends of Trees" Award, Fairfax County Tree Commission (County)

1996   "Outstanding Recycling Program," Fairfax County Department of Waste Management and Recycling (County)

1997   "Friends of Trees" Award, Fairfax Tree Commission (County)

1998   Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, COG, Recycling Award

1999   Virginia Environmental Stewardship Award (VA Environmental Quality)

2001   Fairfax County Recycling Award/Fairfax County Dept. of Waste Mngt.

2002    American Forest & Paper Asn./F1F& PA (National School Recycling Award)

AF&PA chooses SAGA the top school recycling program in the nation; SAGA becomes "first" high school in the nation to win AF&PA award. Commonwealth of Virginia/Senate Commendation Senator Janet Howell

2003    "Environmental Leadership-Reduce, Reuse, Recycling "Center for Healthy Environment & Justice/CHEJ-" Green Flag Program" (National Award) Fairfax County Environmental Excellence Award, Board of Supervisors

2004   Promotion of Commonwealth of Virginia's "Green Schools" Legislation/ Patrons: Senator Janet Howell, Delegates Ken Plum and Tom Rust

Additional Information

  • News articles about the SAGA and MMS partnership moremore


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior