Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, repurpose, reuse, recycle: all those “r” words we often hear around Earth Day. Buzzwords?  Maybe. If taken seriously and pursued diligently, these actions can lead to innovation and cost-savings—and even bring charm to a place. Mason Recreation’s Team Development and Experiential Learning program, The EDGE, has saved thousands of dollars by repurposing materials. In many cases, we have increased the quality of a structure or piece of equipment better than we would have by buying it new.  For example, a recent project to replace wheelbarrow handles using repurposed two-inch-thick white oak boards made for much stouter handles than those on a new, store-bought wheelbarrow.

Even larger repurposing projects have come from material donations. To help us build our course, Novec, a regional electric utility, donated a trailer-load of retired power poles. We only had to transport the poles to our facility with a borrowed trailer. With these poles, we have built benches, stair steps on steep trails, and many of our activity structures, including our team walls and cable walk challenges. Purchasing this quantity of poles new would have cost more than $20,000.

Fairfax County’s Public Works and Environmental Services periodically delivers six tractor-trailer loads of mulch to us, all recycled wood. County businesses and residents send trees and woody plants to recycling and disposal centers, which in turn shred and deliver mulch to the public for landscaping use.  The mulch benefits The EDGE by reducing impact on the roots of our hickory-oak-pine woods. Groups visiting The EDGE also have a softer, “cushiony” surface to walk on and enjoy their activities. And the county can dispose of a huge quantity of material in a short time. Win-win.

In addition, when Dominion Energy built new power line towers through the Science & Technology Campus, they donated their heavy-duty construction mats. These have given us important driving access to our trails and have lasted about three years. As they have split over time from weather and our driving, we have repurposed boards for smaller equipment, such as the wheelbarrow handles mentioned earlier.

Nearby neighbors have also donated a truckload of treated wood when rebuilding a backyard deck. We have used this wood in smaller applications such as for portable activities—and we have kept more material out of a landfill as a result.

The list keeps growing! We have made a concerted effort to re-imagine and remake things just as we help teams and individuals re-imagine and restore themselves.

Our strict approach to client safety keeps us replacing our climbing ropes based on manufacturers’ recommended timeframes or our observations of significant wear. Instead of sending retired ropes to take up more space in a landfill, we use them to make new activities, teach knot tying, and even pull out stuck vehicles.

In addition, we have transformed

  • a large electric panel box into an equipment storage locker;
  • surplus wrenches into unique door and drawer handles;
  • discarded Plexiglas into windows in our equipment sheds;
  • an old bowling ball into a pivot point under our Whale Watch balancing activity;
  • retired climbing helmets into hanging planters and unique lampshades.

As you can see, we take fun and creativity seriously at The EDGE. Such innovation adds value and lowers costs, and there’s a strong philosophy behind it all. While we celebrate the 49th Earth Day this year and the 50th the next, you can bet we will do more than recite buzzwords—we’ll remake and restore what we have toward a better world.

Thanks for reading. Share your stories of reused, repurposed, or recycled materials with The EDGE today, or book a program with us to see our projects for yourself.

By Daniel Nellis


Internships: Focus on the People Skills

Internship opportunities abound, according to a recent employer survey. However, the skills employers want the most from prospective interns may surprise many job seekers.

Eighty-nine percent of employers across all sectors offer internships or other experiential learning opportunities to college students, according to Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI). In addition, overall hiring of new graduates increased significantly over 2017–2018, a trend that has continued for the last 8 years and represents the longest sustained increase in CERI’s 47 years of conducting its Recruiting Trends report. According to CERI’s 2017–2018 report brief on internships and co-ops, employers are hiring interns and similar pre-professional positions for students of all disciplines, the most common in the fields of business and engineering. Commonalities emerged on desired skillsets. CERI researchers asked employers what they were looking for in potential candidates, and then to rank those attributes. Three emerged as the most important: enthusiasm, fit to the employer’s culture, and work ethic. The upshot: The abilities to build positive interpersonal relationships and communicate effectively can make or break how an intern fits in at their organization.

That may go against conventional wisdom. Job postings abound with job-specific technical skills, but attributes like the three above often prove hard to articulate. Which may be why when LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner asked an audience last October what skills U.S. workers lack, most replied, “Coding.” “It turns out that’s not the biggest skills gap,” said Weiner, referring to recent LinkedIn data research. “The biggest skills gap in the United States is soft skills. Written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration.”

The EDGE is revamping our curriculum to address this skills gap, and we would value your input! Our brief, five-question survey [link to the survey] should take 5 or fewer minutes to complete, and your insights will directly inform the programs we will offer.

We are also currently booking onboarding programs, and we would be delighted to welcome you and your intern team to The EDGE. To book a program or request more information, click here.

For more than 20 years, we have been offering onboarding programs for new hires, whether interns on a summer program or a new cohort of employees. Most frequently, teams visit our 10-acre team development course located on GMU’s Science and Technology campus. We also can also bring our Challenge Course to you through our mobile EDGE on Wheels program. Email so we can reserve your date!

  • Pamela Krist & David Heath
Blog Uncategorized

Changing Lessons by Changing the Scale

Dan Nellis, The EDGE Facilities Manager, will present Changing Lessons by Changing the Scale as part of the facilitation and programming workshop series at the 28th Annual International ACCT Exposition to be held February 1 – 4, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The large wooden Ropes and Rings Puzzle pictured below (photo 4) is an example of how Dan used his creativity plus design and construction skills to change the scale.  Using a Strings and Rings Puzzle of the same design made from a tongue depressor as a model, he made a larger individual version (photo 1) and shared it with a fellow attendee at last year’s Annual International ACCT Conference and Exposition.

Photos 2 and 3 show The EDGE staff engaged in creative planning of how to utilize Dan’s new Ropes and Rings Puzzle as a programming station for a team of 12.  This version will assist staff in facilitating the topics of problem solving, cooperation, effective communication and understanding different perspectives for adult clients and youth 10 years of age and above.

Blog Dan the Bearded Builder

Arborist Scott Johnston partners with The EDGE

Scott Johnston partners with The EDGE’s Facilities Manager, Dan Nellis, to ensure the safety of our clients and our trees.  Since 2009, Scott has logged 144 hands on volunteer and consultant hours.

An arborist muses on a 35-year career high in the branches

(Adrian Higgins/The Washington Post)

By Adrian Higgins Gardening columnist

Scott Johnston has his feet on the ground but his heart in the air. Day in and out, he trusts his life to a harness, coils of half-inch rope and 35 years of knowledge gained by working in trees.

“Do you want me to rig up and climb a tree?” he asked. That’s all right, I said, clinging to my notebook. I’m not sure my nerves could take it, even as a spectator. Johnston, who is 58 and looks like a maturing matinee idol, thinks nothing of getting high into an 80-foot oak or tulip tree. As an independent certified arborist, he has devoted his working life to trees, is passionate about them and, if you scratch below the cambium, is vexed by the way we treat them.

Blog Community Corner

You Can Find us on Facebook, Too

Please “follow” us  – – to stay up to date on The EDGE.  Have you been to The EDGE?  We welcome your pictures for posting on our Facebook page or should you create a social media post following your program, please share with us!