Jason Green bumps into his old friend, Captain Recycle
(Note: This story appeared in a recent issue of the Blue & White, St. Petersburg College’s newsletter for faculty and staff.)
He wasn’t wearing his mask and cape, but college Sustainability Coordinator Jason Green recognized Captain Recycle the minute he walked into the room.
To most people, Alan Shapiro is just a mild-mannered Instructional Technologist at the Seminole Campus. But it wasn’t too many years ago that Shapiro was Captain Recycle, Boca Ciega High School’s masked marvel of all things green and recyclable.
Jason Green remembered, because he was one of Captain Recycle’s students. And Green says that 18 years after his Boca Ciega days, he owes his ecologically friendly career to his old high school teacher.
“He had such an impact, he was such a passionate teacher,” Green recalled. “He couldn’t help but have an impact on how I looked at the world. From that class, I became a lifelong environmentalist. I made sure my family recycled at home. When possible, I rode my bike rather than drove and tried to raise the consciousness of my friends and family about not wasting energy and water.”
Now, both men are employed by St. Petersburg College, and both ended up in the same meeting at the Seminole Campus recently to discuss some college-related ecological subjects. Green recognized his old teacher right away; it took a few additional minutes for Shapiro to recognize Green.
But Shapiro’s memory is pretty sharp when it comes to Captain Recycle.
“I was a science teacher at the time, and the state of Florida had just passed a law requiring communities to recycle a certain percentage of their waste,” Shapiro said. “I wanted to get a recycling center started at the school, so I started a club we called Eco-Action.”
Boca Ciega High School is in Gulfport, but Shapiro sought help from Tom Lehmann, the recycling coordinator for the city of St. Petersburg. He and his students drew up flyers, urging people to bring their recyclables to school.
To generate excitement among his students, Shapiro dreamed up the Captain Recycle character.
“I got a t-shirt airbrushed with the letters CR on the front, and I got a cape and a mask and I walked around the school as Captain Recycle,” Shapiro said. “The whole thing became pretty popular.”
The club gathered and recycled aluminum cans, paper, cardboard and Styrofoam. The effort was so successful that the recycling center at Boca Ciega became one of the most productive centers in the St. Petersburg system.
All of that made a big impression on many Boca Ciega students, but it made a huge impression on Green, who went on to a career as an architect and sustainability expert. He now leads all of the environmental efforts at SPC.
“(Shapiro) didn’t care about appearances, he was so passionate and he ran around school in that cape and mask making sure students and teachers did the right thing by recycling.” Green said.
It took Shapiro a little while to recall Jason Green, but once he did it created a rush of memories from his early-1990s Captain Recycle days.
“It blew me away, it was wonderful,” he said. “Jason said, ‘You kind of inspired me.’ It made me feel good as a teacher, and as someone who still tries to do things for the environment.
“Teaching can be good.”
All of SPC’s recent green efforts, led by Jason Green, have Shapiro thinking about bringing Captain Recycle out of retirement.
“My old cape is gone,” he said. “But I bet I could get another one.”