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From spaghetti suppers to sneakers

Global problems like climate change can feel overwhelming, beyond any one individual's reach to solve. Yet, great progress can come from small steps.

This is the first story in an occasional series about colleagues acting locally to make a difference for their communities and the environment.

Tyler Careau, 14, is currently the senior patrol leader of Boy Scout Troop 33 in Westminster, Massachusetts. His parents, Christine and Jeremy, volunteer for the troop and help with fundraisers.

“Before this, the troop did the usual Earth Day cleanups for community service, and multiple fundraisers like spaghetti suppers, popcorn sales, and pancake breakfasts,” said Jeremy Careau, PE, who is a senior electrical project manager in UMass Chan’s Department of Facilities Engineering & Construction.

“The troop was looking for a new way to make a positive impact on the environment, while trying to raise funds. Christine found the sneaker recycling company and proposed the idea for the drive,” Jeremy said.

The company Got Sneakers calls itself a “sneaker recycling organization”. It will pay for sneakers in good enough shape to be reused and will also collect at no charge older sneakers that can be shredded and recycled for other uses.

The troop started with one bin at a local library and scouts canvasing friends and family for donations. Jeremy spread the word among colleagues on campus, and the sneakers started piling up in the Careau's garage. Christine is administering the program and coordinating shipping to Got Sneakers.

So far, the troop has collected 211 used pairs. Got Sneakers calculates that reusing or recycling those sneakers equates to saving 6,330 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 476,227 gallons of water that would have been used making new sneakers. 

“Let’s just say we use a lot of air fresheners in the garage, but it’s totally worth it for the benefit of the environment and the troop,” Jeremy said.

The Growing Green team at UMass Chan wants to hear more stories like this, so we can spread good ideas that are making an impact. If you have a story to share, please email us at