Drink Up for the Environment
Lisa VanArsdale, a 20 year old student of Messiah College works toward helping the environment with her self-run business, “Drink Up.” Her goal is to save juice pouches from being sent to land fills and recycling them by creating different usable items such as purses, wallets, and much more. I have had the opportunity of helping Lisa advocate for her cause in the past, and with this project, plan on finding more ways to spread the word about “Drink Up.” I hope to let people know that something as simple as a juice pouch, which is something many households purchase, can be recycled and reused, while getting one step closer to helping the environment.
Lisa VanArsdale is a 20 year old student from Center Valley, Pennsylvania who graduated from Southern Lehigh Senior High School in 2007. In three words, VanArsdale can be described as unique, goal-oriented, and strong-willed. She currently attends Messiah College in Grantham, PA to study theatre arts. At Messiah, VanArsdale is a member of the theatre club, choir, and art club. Some of her hobbies include dancing, watching old movies, going to New York City, crafting, and exploring. Aside from attending classes and club meetings at Messiah, VanArsdale also works a part-time retail job. If she can, she finds time to squeeze in babysitting for local families in her hometown of Center Valley. VanArsdale may appear to be the average young woman; attending school, working a part-time job, and taking dance lessons; but she does have a unique hobby which she devotes much of her time to. This hobby begins with collecting old juice pouches from her friends, family, and community.
Many households can agree that Capri-Sun, Hi-C, and Kool-Aid juice pouches are frequently found in the family refrigerator. Although these beverages can be enjoyed in a packed lunch, and are handy for an on-the-go quench of thirst, people forget to think about where these juice pouches go after they are finished and thrown away. Landfills all over the country are full of these popular juice pouches, which are 100% non-biodegradable. Knowing this, VanArsdale combined her creativity and love for the environment to come up with an idea to help get some trash out of landfills. By using recycled juice pouches, she combines her artistic side to create purses, wallets, shoe racks, laundry baskets, and more!
VanArsdale first came up with the idea to make these creative reusable items from one of her high school friends. VanArsdale said,
“In high school I had a reputation for making dresses out of unusual materials such as duct tape and starburst wrappers, so then people recommended that I jump on the juice pouch train. I wasn’t really a fan of it until my friend Kelcie Mohr bought me a Capri Sun bag for my birthday because she felt it suited my personality. I ended up loving it and after learning about the harsh effects they have on the environment, I was determined to start my own line of juice pouch designs. Now, that is the material I work with the most, it just stuck.”
LANDFILLS IN PENNSYLVANIA
For many, it is an everyday routine to dispose of waste; whether it is plastic, uneaten food, paper bags, or other no longer usable items. While you subconsciously throw away your waste into the garbage can, it is not commonly thought of where the waste goes after disposing of it.
Landfills are carefully designed structures built into the ground or on top of the ground. After the design is established, trash is isolated from the surrounding environment such as groundwater, air, and rain. This isolation is accomplished with a bottom liner and daily covering of soil over the waste which is deposited to the landfill (Freudenrich, 2008).
Of all of the municipal solid waste that crosses state lines for disposal, 23% of the waste comes from Pennsylvania, making the state, one of the largest importers of waste since the year of 1992 (Action PA). There are already 48 existing municipal waste landfills in the state of Pennsylvania and four more are currently being proposed to be made (Action PA). In addition to this large number of solid waste landfills, there are also four residual waste landfills, with one in the proposal stage, six construction and demolition landfills, with one in proposal stage, and five municipal solid waste incinerators with four more in the proposal stage (Action PA).
The growing number of landfills in the state of Pennsylvania is becoming overwhelming and having harsh effects on the environment. Environmental Impact Studies show the effects of landfills on the environment. Aside from polluting the air, landfills require an enormous amount of space to keep the cycle of trash and waste under control. On average, most Pennsylvania landfills range from 500-600 acres and receive well over 3000 tons of solid waste each day (PA Waste Industry Assoc.). With already nearly 50 landfills existing in Pennsylvania, and more in the process of being created, this brings up a problem of using more land for waste, when it could be used for farming. The destruction of farmland is often associated with the building of cities, factories, and schools, but landfills are also a cause for destruction. A 500 acre landfill could be a 500 acre farm to create more organic crops to sell and purchase from local growers, farmers markets, and street stands (Sweeny, 2009).
Landfills are operated under permits issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Each permit regulates the type and amount of waste each landfill can receive. Each load of waste is weighed and documented on a manifest (PA Waste Industry Assoc). A spotter checks waste being unloaded against the manifest and makes sure everything is at full conformity.
The process to covering old waste and making new layers in landfills is a productive task. Before anything is done, the landfill is sited. In order to site the landfill, experts check and study the environment in surrounding communities of landfills. Terrain is explored, groundwater is tested, air quality is monitored, and traffic patters are the overall area is studied in order to layout adequate traffic patterns to get in and out of the landfill. Sometimes, the process of completing a landfill can take up to five years (PA Waste Industry Assoc).
Once the site is approved, the landfill area is split into sections which are also referred to as cells. This allows for the distribution of new layers to be mapped out easier. Each cell area is lined with multiple layers of protective material in order to be sealed with new layers of coverage. A clay sub-base is put down to line the bottom of the cells. It is made from 6 inches of compact clay to prevent water from seeping through the layers. Next is a geo-textile material which can be compared to the material of carpet padding. This layer acts as a protective cushion for the clay liner. The third layer is placed on top of the geo-textile material. This is the first of two actual liners made of 60-millimeter high-density polyethylene. This material is known for its chemical resistance and durability. This layer acts as a secondary for reassurance of no leaks for water or air from the outer environment (PA Waste Industry Assoc). At this point, the layers and seams are tested by independent laboratories. If the liners are approved, they are welded together and are given an okay to move to the next steps for layering.
Acting as a detection monitoring system, a polyethylene drainage net layer called geo-net is placed to provide a flow zone to monitor the integrity of the primary layer (PA Waste Industry). The primary layer of the liner placed next is a manmade clay layer, and a second 60-millimeter polyethylene liner is placed on top. Another layer of the carpet padding material, which is made of geo-textile tops of the liner. Lastly, the final layer is called the protective cover, containing a network of drainage pipes surrounded by gravel and topped with 18 inches of coarse sand (PA Waste Industry Assoc).
A cap, which is also an engineered system of multiple layers of natural and manmade geo-synthetic materials, is installed to cover the waste once the cells of the landfills reach final grades. This works with the liner to seal the cell. Equipment operators push trash into cells as they stop to check if they see any type of waste or anything else that shouldn't be there. A layer of crushed stone and dirt is plowed over all of the trash by a bulldozer. It is required that operators take care of land fill regulations by testing landfills even after they're filled, capped, and closed. These tests can include sampling groundwater and surface water, testing air quality, and checking for erosion and sedimentation (PA Waste Industry Assoc).
Another factor of landfills that is harmful to the environment is the production of leachate and the methane. Both of these things form as solid waste decomposes and generates a liquid waste and a gas. This liquid waste is the leachate and the gas is part of the methane. Both of these things can be harmful to the environment because of its pollutants to the air and the disposal of decomposed trashed into water systems (Action PA). After learning all of this about landfills, VanArsdale knew she wanted to do everything she could to help the environment.
“I figured, what the heck, making bags and other fun things out of juice pouches not only benefits the environment, but it teaches me and my friends and family how to recycle, and I have fun making the things I make. I have always loved doing arts and crafts and feel I am a creative person. When there is an option to use creativity and recycling together, I’m going to go for it, 100%.”
Interested in knowing the process Lisa goes through to make her items? She provided a very hands-on demonstration on how to create a large purse and let it be said, it was an experience! The first step is to get the juice pouches in which VanArsdale said,
“My family drinks a lot of them, but recently I have built up a network of people that save pouches for me from their children, students, dorm rooms, patrons, etc. This makes a lot less work for my family, which is nice. Whenever I am going to a family get together or a bon fire at a friends house, I always make sure to bring boxes of juice for everyone to drink and then recycle their pouches”
In addition to this, Lisa was able to collect over 3000 pouches this summer while she was on a mission trip in Jamaica. VanArsdale said that Jamaica has their own brand of Capri Sun. When she went to stores she bought boxes of them to take to the different stations she visited. Many parents of the children Lisa was working with also began to save the pouches they collected in their households. After VanArsdale’s two month trip ended, she had to purchase a new suitcase, just to hold all of the pouches she collected!
“It was so awesome! I had never seen that many juice pouches in front of my eyes ever! My mom wasn’t happy at first when she found out she had to pay extra for a new suitcase and an extra charge for checking more then one bag on the flight back to the USA, but she was proud that I had collected so many pouches so, A. she didn’t have to drink any for a while, and B. because I had gotten the word out about the importance of recycling and how it can be fun”
After the juice pouches are collected, VanArsdale thoroughly cleans out all the pouches. First, she cuts open the pouches from the bottom. She soaks them in hot water with lots of dish soap. This gets rid of whatever drops of juice may still be left in the pouches. While they are soaking, she also scrubs each pouch with a sponge to assure their cleanliness and so no pouches are sticky. She then dumps them into a big tub of hot water with no dish soap to rinse them, and again into another tub of cooler water. After the pouches are rinsed she hangs them up on a clothing line to dry.
“When I first started doing this, my friends would come over and laugh because there would be lines and lines and lines of Capri sun and Kool Aid pouches hanging up on clothes line in my backyard instead of clothing.”
The dried pouches are then sorted by their brand, flavor, color, and any other way they can possibly be separated to best match. The sorted pouches are placed into recycled reusable bags and stored until she needs them. On this particular day, Lisa decided she wanted to make a purse out of tropical Capri Sun pouches. First she laid out the pouches into a pattern of how she wanted to sew them together. After this she took out her thread and needle and started sewing them together, just as if she was knitting a sweater!
“All of my products are made with recycled string. I like to make sure to keep everything I make as green as possible. Every item also has a tag for proof of authenticity, which also encourage the green factor because the tags are produced from recycled paper.”
After the pouches are sewn together, she then takes the extra pouches, folds them half, and makes straps for the bag. The final product then gets its tag and is stored in a doll house in Lisa’s room.
“I always have lots of my products in stock. I have to because as more and more people are finding out about everything I make, there is more demand for them. I was keeping them in a nice pile in the living room, but my mom wasn’t having that anymore once the pile turned into 50 piles covering the entire room. I went into the attic to look for a large bin or something else suitable to store them in and I came across some of my old doll houses from when I was a kid. I instantly thought it would be so fun to run my business out of a doll house and dragged them downstairs. Now, I walk into my room everyday and see dollhouses full of juice pouch products…and it makes me smile every time!”
After Lisa mastered making bags, she decided to challenge herself and her talents to make other things. Shower caddies, shoe racks, hampers, laundry baskets, magazine racks, wallets, various different sizes of bags, and even dresses. Some people may think, how is a shoe rack made out of Capri Sun pouches sturdy? I decided to test one out when she showed one to me. The shoe racks are triple lined, meaning; she sewed three juice pouches together on top of one another, and then proceeded to sewing them together. In personal experience, I purchased a shoe rack from her a year ago, and it is still hanging in my closet with no signs of being anywhere close to destruction.
“I think my favorite thing to make is probably just the basic bag that I started with...I kind of miss making them when I have to work on making other things for a long time. At one point, I got so into the routine of making bags that I used to set silly little time goals for myself. Every time I would make a bag, I would challenge my previous time to get faster and faster at making them. I think my fastest time in making a large bag was one and a half hours, compared to the 4-6 hours it took me when I first started,” said VanArsdale.
On average, VanArsdale spends about 3-4 hours per day sewing. Depending on her schedule, sometimes she will spend more time. She claims she is good at balancing out her schedule with school work, dance practice, and club meetings. Lisa is a frequent traveler to New York City. She travels there by bus, which is usually a 2 to 3 hour ride, depending on where she leaves from. While on the bus, she spends the entire time sewing pouches and often sparks attention of other passengers.
“I did not realize it at first, but just by sewing stuff together on the bus helps me get the word out about recycling and landfills. People ask me what I am making and I tell them, as well as informing them on the effects of landfills. After they are knowledgeable of this, I tell them juice pouches are 100% non-biodegradable and clog landfills. If every person would just recycle their pouches, we could take a giant step in helping the environment. It is also cool because more times then less, people ask how they can buy some of my products. It is really a win-win situation for my cause, and giving people the knowledge of their environment.” With all the success of creating her items, Lisa’s next motive is to sell her products to anyone interested in buying and learning about recycling.
WHERE LISA SELLS HER PRODUCTS
“My new favorite thing to do in the entire world is sell my stuff to tourists in New York City. I like to just sit down in Times Square or central park and shoot the breeze with folks. I have met some incredible people by doing that, and I have sold bags that have gone to live in Prague and Norway! New York is also the hot spot for selling my stuff. People are memorized when I sit on my blanket with my stuff lined up all around me. I also have my bags in a few stores throughout the Lehigh Valley and New York, and I have sold them at local events, craft fairs, community festivals, sustainability events, summer camps, and at tourist attractions as well as at Messiah College”
Lisa sells her items at a wide range of prices. Typically, her highest selling item is her bags. She sells the large bags for twenty dollars and the smaller ones for 15 dollars. Since they are handmade, they are under priced, but she is more focused on getting the word out about recycling rather then making money. Even with all the time and effort Lisa puts into making her items she still donates much of her profits. There are different going green fundraisers and charities in the Lehigh Valley which she gives money to in order to help make her hometown a cleaner place to live. She also benefits because these charities sell her bags at their events and allow Lisa to speak about the importance of helping the environment. There are also sustainability causes at Messiah College which Lisa takes the opportunity to sell her things.
“Shower caddies are a hit at my college! Especially with the freshmen girls who either forget to purchase one because they are not used to public showers, or because they think they are cuter then a plain colored one from a department store! I have sold many shower caddies at my school and I always make sure my customers are well informed on the cause I support for why I make the things I do.” VanArsdale is a Michael Jackson fanatic. As well as donating money to sustainability causes and charities she also wanted to donate to another charity which caught her attention not only because it involved Michael Jackson, but it also involved Jamaica where she had recently visited.
“Since Michael Jackson passed, I was inspired by his impact on my life to preserve his memory with my purses. So in celebration of his endeavor to heal the world, 10% of my profits go to a charity. The usual charity of choice is a children's camp in Jamaica that's dear to my heart.”
The growing success of Lisa’s advocating and selling of her products has given her the goal to create her own self run business. During the summer of 2009, Lisa brainstormed different ideas for a name for her business with her friends and family. After coming up with a name, she then created business cards as well as the name on the recycled tag of every item she sells.
“My business cards identify my "business" as Drink Up. I do not remember exactly when I came up with that name, it was definitely sometime t his past summer, but I definitely thought it was creative yet tasteful. The runner up was "Quench." but that sounded a little too pretentious.”
VanArsdale has appeared on the WFMZ News Channel of the Lehigh Valley numerous times because of her passion toward helping her community get involved in recycling. She attends many community clean up days, volunteers for the Upper Saucon Police Station to help clean up highways, and has received a Good Samaritan award from Upper Saucon Township. The Morning Call, which is the local newspaper of the Lehigh Valley has also interviewed VanArsdale multiple times and run stories about what she does. The Grantham, PA community where Lisa attends college has also recognized her efforts. At Lisa’s rate, she is going to be able to expand out Pennsylvania and start getting bordering states to understand the cause.
It is apparent that landfills are necessary because of the excessive amounts of waste produced in everyday life, but it is possible to cut back on the amount of waste sent to the landfills by recycling. VanArsdale has a strong initiative to take a small step in recycling by saving the juice pouches from going to landfills. She is so passionate about recycling the pouches because of how simple it can be. Instead of throwing a pouch away after drinking it, it can be easily placed into a recycled paper bag. Eventually when the bag is full, the pouches can be donated to VanArsdale, or someone else who is advocating for the same cause. VanArsdale wants to get the word out about recycling pouches to as many people as she can.
OTHER GREEN LIFESTYLES OF LISA
Another interesting fact about Lisa is that she does not have her driver’s license. She uses public transportation, car pools, rides a bike, or walks to wherever she needs to go. Lisa enjoys not having a license because then she does not even have the temptation to drive somewhere. She gets exercise, and saves the environment from excess air pollution. Lisa also only purchases organic food. She either gets food from local growers or at organic markets. She gets clothing from Good Will when she can to make sure old clothing of other people is being used again by her and she also buys everyday items that are made of recycled materials. Other simple routines such as unplugging appliances when she is not using them and eating less beef are a part of Lisa’s everyday life.
Lisa VanArsdale is an inspiring individual whose passion toward the environment is positive and refreshing. Her outreach to her friends, family, and community proves that any individual who is willing to try can make the same efforts she has to make the environment and healthier and happier place to live.