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Charlotte college students donating recycled crayons to kindergarten classes

Mackenzie Smart, the founder of the university's SDG Club, says this is their second summer doing this project.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Students at UNC Charlotte are giving back to the community in a colorful way.

The university's SDG Club, short for 17 Sustainable Development Goals made by the UN, aims to educate and inspire change in the community through student-led projects.

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For their latest initiative, The Crayon Project, students are collecting used crayons from over 40 restaurants in Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson, Concord, and Charlotte that would otherwise be thrown out. 

The crayons will then be melted down to make new crayons and donated to kindergarten classes across the Charlotte area.

Credit: Mackenzie Smart

Mackenzie Smart, the founder of the SDG Club and a graduate of UNC Charlotte, said this is their second summer doing this project.

Smart said she was inspired to start the project after seeing crayons being thrown away at her job.

"I'm a waitress, and the place I work at, we were just kind of throwing away the crayons. And I was like, 'this feels wrong.' We need to do something with them," she explained. "I flashed back to when like in kindergarten when we would take those little pieces and melt them down in the little oven and the teacher's work room and make new crayons and I was like, 'maybe we could do something like this.'"


Welcome to the crayon project! 🖍 Thank you to everyone that made this possible! We can’t wait to do it all again next summer! #sdgs #sdg13

♬ Steven Universe - L.Dre

Thousands of crayons were donated during last year's project, so it was only fitting that the SDG Club kick it off for a second year.

Kylee Hughes, current president of the SGE Club, said she's amazed by how such a simple idea could have such a major impact on young kids.

"It's also something so menial, you really don't think about how often crayons are used in the Charlotte area, because there are so many schools in CMS," Hughes said. 

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Hughes said she hopes to pay the project forward by involving elementary school kids in future projects.

"Getting those kids interested too because they love to be part of things. It's almost like a competition for them," she said. "Especially when we have the outreach to be able to kind of maybe give a demonstration to a lot of those classrooms, they could be interested in doing it themselves. So it's just kind of like a domino effect."

One of the purposes of the project is to create a sustainable way to provide crayons to kids in Charlotte.

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Erik Byker, professor and faculty advisor for the SDG club, said it aligns well with the goals of the organization.

"One of the great things about this project too is that it educates about the sustainable development goals, in particular, sustainable development, goal number four, which is about quality education," he said. "It's great to be able to see that through a project like this, which focuses on ways to recycle, reduce, reuse, to be able to also educate about these sustainable development goals, which are going to be the key for a healthier, more sustainable planet."

Learn more about the SDG Club and its initiatives here.

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