Kathryn Socash protects Mother Earth the way a mom protects a child.
She's vigilant about it.
"I love this quote," she says as she recalls an ancient Native American proverb. "We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children."
With that philosophy in mind, Socash has taken recycling to a level few attain.
Socash is the recycling coordinator for Pine Township, but she was called the Recycling Queen long before she got the more official-sounding title from Pine.
"I put a lot of time and effort into it," she says about recycling. "It's frustrating to see some people just don't care. They think, 'I'll throw it away,' and that's as far as their mind goes.
"I wish they could see the process and see (that trash) will contaminate the earth. There's no reason for it."
Socash lives what she preaches.
She composts fruit and vegetables scraps, eggshells and coffee grounds. She hangs her laundry on an outdoor line to dry. She recycles glass, plastics, cans, paper, cardboard, plastic bags and anything else that can go into a recycling bin. She donates clothes to Goodwill or cuts them up to use as rags.
When it comes to paper towels, she goes through one roll a year.
"Some people think I'm eccentric," she says with a smile.
Eccentric or not, Socash is a powerful force in the local recycling world.
She organized the first Pine Recycle-Rama last year that was a one-stop shop for anyone who had items to recycle and reuse. The event organizers amassed thousands of pounds of clothes, bikes, medical supplies and more that avoided the landfill.
Socash is doing it again this year from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 5 with the same vendors from last year. They will gather in the parking lot at the Pine Municipal Building and gleefully collect the stuff people get rid of when they are spring cleaning.
Construction Junction filled a 24-foot box truck with building materials.
Northern Tier Library filled two cars with books, videos and other media.
J.W. Marshall Inc. collected enough tin, bicycles and aluminum wheels to fill a 30-yard roll-off box to about half to three-quarters full.
Free Ride Pittsburgh collected 25 bikes. The nonprofit group is a recycling and education facility that teaches the do-it-yourself approach to bike repair and maintenance.
Global Links received crutches, walkers, shower chairs and more than 100 pounds of medical supplies.
West Deer Dog Shelter left with enough crates, blankets, towels, leases, bowls, collars to fill a pickup truck and two cars.
eLoop LLC of Pittsburgh weighed in and drove off with 11,752 pounds of TVs and monitors, computers, electronics and other recyclable items that you can't drop in your recycling bin.
Socash and other volunteers donated their time, Pizza Hut donated pizza for lunch and some of the volunteers also baked goodies to snack on during the event.
All told, the event cost Pine Township taxpayers nothing, but went a long way toward saving the Earth.
In The Beginning
"I've always been very environmental," says Socash. "Always."
As a child, she loved nature and being outdoors "back in the day when children spent a lot of time outside."
"I've often thought I should have grown up on a farm. I grew up between two farms so I kinda feel like I did," says Socash as she reminisces about playing with tadpoles in a pond, digging out clay from a creek bed and swinging on a rope across a lake.
She still likes to pick berries.
"The process is part of the enjoyment," she says. "I'm out there in nature, out there by myself."
Then she makes pies with the berries, which prompted a co-worker to comment that seemed old-fashioned.
"Yeah, but while I'm making the pies, I'm listening to rap music," Socash says. "I'm kinda between cultures."
The Beginning of Her Recycling
Socash started recycling in the early 1980s soon after she got married. She collected recyclables from family, friends and neighbors.
"Once a month I would fill my little car up to the very brim," Socash reminisces. Then she would take that load from her Richland Township home to a recycling place on Route 8 near Etna where she would get $4 to $5 for the recycling.
But she never made the trip for the money.
"I did it because I wanted to do the right thing," she said. "I live my life by 'reduce, reuse and recycle'."
Socash puts her recycling at the curb once a week now for a recycling truck to pick it up.
"Things have evolved, but not nearly enough," she said. "We need to do more and preserve what we have."
It frustrates her that people throw things away, Socash said.
"Where do they think 'away' is?"
Living Her Philosophy
Socash does not just talk the talk. She walks the walk and goes above and beyond to recycle the recyclables among us.
Besides organizing the Recycle-Rama, Socash keeps an eye on the recycling bins outside the Pine Municipal Building where she works as the township's business tax administrator and code enforcement secretary, in addition to her recycling duties.
She was incredulous when someone dumped a basketball hoop in one.
Then there was the time someone dumped their trash in the Abitibi Paper Retriever bin.
Socash looked through it to find an address so she could write the people who put it there and tell them not to do it again.
At Pine's Community Day in July, Socash makes the rounds with volunteer Eileen Maxwell to make sure recyclabes are put in the proper bins, not the trash.
"It's not below Eileen and me to dig through dumpsters," said Socash.
"I'm as green as you can get."