LOCAL FOLKS: Extension associate takes her passion to work

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Susan McGukin began hearing the term “recycle” when she was in college, but she didn’t really practice the act until she started teaching in Carrollton, Ga.
“We started a recycling program at the public school where I taught in the late ‘70s, before recycling was really cool,” she said. “Primarily, we recycled paper – notebook paper, old tests, newspapers that came into the library, magazines. You had to haul it to the city dump where there was a recycling bin, so I drove it there on a weekly basis.”
Fast forward to 2013. McGukin is the program associate for volunteer management at Mississippi State University’s Extension Service for Lee County.
And she’s still hauling recyclables.
“What I do at the office is give everybody a box to put by their desks,” she said. The eight employees fill them with paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
“The city doesn’t offer a recycling bin for businesses, so I take the recycling home every other week for curbside pickup at my house,” she said. “If we generate more than that, I take it to one of the fire stations in town where there’s an overflow bin.”
McGukin estimates she puts 50 to 60 pounds of recyclables on the curb on her designated Wednesday pickup days.
“They kind of laugh at me around here,” she said. “They say, ‘Gosh, you sure put a lot of effort into this.’ I’ve been known as the ‘recycle queen’ for years, but I don’t mind. It’s something I feel so strongly about.”
McGukin said she and her husband, Don, don’t limit their recycling to items that can be hauled to the curb. During renovation projects on their older home in Tupelo, they’ll hang onto half a piece of lumber or old Sheetrock.
“We have what I call a lumber store in our attic,” she said. “We reuse that stuff and it saves us a lot of money as we renovate.”
As we recognize Earth Day today, McGukin is keenly aware that not everyone shares her passion for recycling and reusing old things. But she is hopeful.
“I hope someday Tupelo will do weekly curbside for those of us who are serious about recycling,” she said. “Then we’d have very little actual garbage going to our landfills.”
ginna.parsons@journalinc.com