One Simple Thing features people who through small yet innovative ways are making a difference in education, energy, the environment, and the use of the planet's resources.
San Clemente, California (CNN) - Joey Santley's flip-flops rhythmically clap as he strolls through San Clemente's surf ghetto, a cluster of boxy surfboard-making businesses.
This chatterbox entrepreneur spouts out ideas like big waves churn up foam.
Surfing is a sport with a black spot on its eco-friendly soul, and Santley thinks he found a way to cleanse it.
"We're going to take the biggest pile of trash that our industry makes and we are going to figure out a home for it," Santley explains.
The shaping and making of surfboards for decades has produced a chemical residue, a toxic white dust that can be found all over the surf ghetto.
Santley grabs a plastic bag inside the major surfboard manufacturer Lost, and points down at a pile of polyurethane powder, excess foam that sprinkled from a surfboard-shaping machine.
"I'll come in here and clean up all this stuff," explains Santley, using a broom and dustpan to put the polyurethane dust into a plastic garbage bag. "They can keep cranking [producing surfboards] because it gets too full in here.
"They love it because they don't have to clean up. And I love it because I come and get material for my boards. And if I wasn't doing this, the dust would be going into the landfill over the hill."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/20/art.green.prison.jpg caption="The Stafford Creek Corrections Center has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through sustainable practices."]
Aberdeen, Washington (CNN) - The organic vegetables travel a short distance from the well-tended garden to the table where they are eaten.
Waste is carefully picked through and recycled, saving thousands of dollars.
The close-cropped lawns are maintained by push mowers to cut down on carbon emissions and gas expenses.
This is not some new designer eco-hotel where the rich and environmentally conscious can be pampered free of guilt.
It's a prison.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cnn.net/money/.element/img/1.0/sections/mag/fsb/bestcolleges/2007/galleries/univ_colorado_boulder.jpg caption="UC Boulder's students make $15 a ton for their recycling efforts."]
CNN All-Platform Journalist
I felt like a schnook pulling into the campus parking lot at the University of Colorado, Boulder in my gas-guzzling SUV. I dodged an endless stream of bicycles on my way, almost got hit by a biodiesel bus and squeezed into a spot between two Priuses.
I normally wouldn’t notice these things but I came to check out the college that topped the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” rankings of the most “Eco-enlightened” universities.
Suddenly I was “that guy”, the only square on campus who hadn’t gone green.
It’s doesn’t take long to notice all of the green efforts underway. We’re all used to recycling by now but they take it to a whole new level. In the student union “compost goalies” man the garbage stations. There are bins for recycling, composting, reusables and finally trash.
Kat Stuart is on duty as I approach with a soda bottle.
“I stand here and I tell people what is and what isn’t compostable, what’s trash and even help with recycling if they need it," she says. "If it gets contaminated we have to pay to put it in the landfill.”
Once the recycling gets past Kat’s careful eye it heads over to the recycling center where students put it through another sorting process. The white paper goes with the white paper, the plastic with the plastic. That’s the secret to getting top dollar for it.
They do such a good job of separating their recycling that even after paying students to sort it all out they actually turn a modest profit: 15 bucks a ton.
A film student named Musa works a conveyor belt sifting through empty bottles and stacks of paper. This is where my soda bottle will end up. It’s pretty gross and a little smelly, but Musa doesn’t seem to mind.
“At the end of the day I feel like I’ve done something by recycling this paper, you know?” he says. "As I walk in the world every day I apply what I learn here to what is happening outside. It takes each individual to make that change.”
It’s that personal commitment to the environment that is so impressive about the efforts of the students here at CU Boulder. So many of us seem to think, or at least hope, that the government or maybe a non-profit organization will take care of protecting the environment. These students seem to realize that if they don’t take on the task then it’s possible no one will.
Scot Wooley is a senior from Aspen, Colorado. He’s studying environmental policy and plans on a career that helps the planet, but for him being green is a much more personal pursuit.
“For me it is a personal responsibility to be sustainable and act green,” he says. “I think it does boil down to individual personal choices made by everyone so that it’s cool to be green. It’s our future.”
As I pull out of campus I can't help but feel that with young people like Kat and Musa and Scot on the case the future looks a little bit brighter, or at least a little greener.