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Char Fladmark sat on the policy committee at St. Mary's Innovis Health to help clean out the clutter and initiate Clean Sweep Week.

St. Mary's sweeps up the clutter

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

In 2007, more than 56 percent of paper in the United States was recycled after use, equaling about 360 pounds of recycled material for every individual in America.

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Green efforts are at an all time high and appear to be growing every year. This is an endeavor that St. Mary's Innovis Health has long been eager to contribute to.

When the newly integrated organization began to implement its Wall Posting Policy, meant to give off a good first impression to all who enter, recycling quickly came into play.

"We tried to look at our building through the eyes of someone entering it for the first time," said LeAnn Mouw, Director of Development and Communications.

"Looking at all the memos and postings on the walls, we saw lots of ways to make it better," said Char Fladmark, a member of the policy's committee.

During the week of May 18, St. Mary's Innovis Health encouraged all of its employees to take a similar sweep through their offices, getting rid of old papers, documents, phone books, binders, and whatever else might have come to clutter the area unnecessarily.

With that, Clean Sweep Week was born.

To help with the major removals taking place throughout the building, the committee called in Sandy Gunderson, Becker County's Recycling Coordinator.

Having worked with the organization before, including on last year's Green Week, Gunderson knew that St. Mary's Innovis has been working continually to make a positive environmental impact.

"All year they've been implementing different things," Gunderson said. "They even have biodegradable to-go cartons in their cafeteria."

Gunderson and MinnKota Recycling received a grant for the recycling containers, which were brought to St. Mary's Innovis for use during Clean Sweep Week. With 80 tall green bins scattered throughout the building, labeled for employees' recycling ease, the call to reduce, reuse and recycle was impossible to ignore.

"It was a visual reminder every time someone walked down the hall," said committee member Laurie Olson.

"There were bins all over the place," Mouw added. "We just kept filling them up - even after the week was over."

As businesses increasingly use electronic formats in place of paperwork, the need for paper products around the workplace is dramatically reduced, a fact that was proven over the course of the week as bin after bin abounded with recyclables.

Altogether, 2,395 pounds of paper were recycled.

"That doesn't include confidential papers, which are shredded and then go through another agency to be recycled," Fladmark said. "That's a very significant number, too."

Additionally, 300 pounds of phone books were recycled from offices throughout the company.

Gunderson pointed out that phone books can often be returned to phone companies, as well as brought to recycling centers.

Unused binders were also recycled internally from department to department, as the company made its greatest effort yet to reduce as much waste as possible.

"It really was a clean sweep," Olson said with a smile.

After this year's success, Clean Sweep Week will become an annual eco-friendly event, in addition to the organization's constant efforts to make a positive impression both professionally and environmentally.

"This was completely new to our employees, and some of them really ran with it," Mouw said, mentioning that the top department earned prizes and was acknowledged for its impressive efforts.

"That was a fun week," Fladmark added. "We all had lots of fun."

Gunderson mentioned that recycling comes to be an almost social activity, which is made win-win by its environmentally friendly impact and economic savvy.

"We're always looking for businesses to work with to help reduce their waste stream," Gunderson said. "Our goal is to reduce as a county, and it helps businesses reduce costs, too."

To organize your own take on Clean Sweep Week, "call Sandy," Olson said. "She'll get you going."

Environmental Services can be reached at 846-7310, and will gladly assist with all recycling needs.

"St. Mary's did a great job, and we'd love to help others follow their example," Gunderson said.

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