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NYer Of The Week: Michelle Del Guercio Teaches Children About Eco-Awareness

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Fed up with seeing litter scattered around her neighborhood, this week's New Yorker is inspiring students to reduce waste and recycle in a crafty way. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

Michelle Del Guercio has a love-hate relationship with trash. She hates that it exists, but loves to collect it.

"The eureka moment was when I was working in the photo department as a freelancer in the photo department at the New Yorker and I was late for a meeting because I was searching through the trash," she says. "I thought to myself after that, 'if I am late for a meeting because I am picking through the trash, I am in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing with my life.'"

Michelle grew up going to garage sales and happily wearing hand-me-downs. When her son went off to school, she realized the thrifty culture she was used to wasn't so popular among younger generations.

"You just go look in the cafeteria at lunch time and you want to cry," she says. "Why do we have to use 850,000, close to 1 million styrofoam trays every day in the schools?"

So, in 2005, Michelle created Skraptacular, a nonprofit organization in Washington Heights that raises "eco-awareness" through art projects made from refuse.

"Most kids love to use their hands and make things and we are just taking that road to teach the more important lessons of reduce, reuse, rethink and recycle," she says.

"If it affects 10 percent of children with a lasting impression, they will continue to use that throughout their lives," says community member Michael Anzalone. "One life affects another and affects another."

Through the EcoFest program in Fort Tryon Park, that effect is already being passed along.

"Because if we don't, probably going to be no water for us to drink, no water for our supersoakers, no water to swim in," says Skraptacular student Luke Hoppa.

"People approach me all the time, especially parents, and say 'I cannot throw anything away anymore,'" Del Guercio says. "My kids are hyper-vigilant because of you, because of Skraptacular. So I don't know if they are thanking me or not but it is making a difference."

So, for motivating the next generation to help the planet, Michelle Del Guercio is our New Yorker of the Week.

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