Local student starts green initiative for Rhinelander businesses
Story and photo by Lori Adler, reporter
Rhinelander high school senior Maile Llanos is an impressive young woman with a dedication to protecting the environment. Like many people, Maile wants to see change, but unlike many people, especially those her age, she found a way to actually facilitate change.
Explaining the reasons for her environmental concerns, Maile said, “You always see on social media that there is garbage in the ocean and so, I guess, it’s just been the whole media coverage of it, and I think it’s cool that people care about protecting the planet.”
Maile’s green initiative for Rhinelander, called “Paint the Town Green” (a name her mom came up with), encourages area businesses to make changes that will ultimately help the environment. Feeling that every little bit counts, Maile’s idea allows businesses to take it upon themselves to decide ways they can contribute.
“It’s basically every local business who would want to participate could, so you don’t mandate anything and it’s not like it’s forced on you,” Maile said, adding, “so a business could do what they are able to do based on their unique ability.”
Businesses, for example, could engage in more recycling or use environmentally friendly packaging. The idea is that each business is different, and each one can find ways to reach the overall goal of operating more sustainably. The reward for this voluntary participation is a listing on a website where environmentally conscious customers could choose businesses based upon their sustainability practices.
Knowing “Paint the Town Green” would need help from public officials to get off the ground, Maile took her idea to the Rhinelander Common Council at a recent meeting, presenting her plan during the public comment portion of the meeting. She simply explained the program and asked for support once it got going. At the city council meeting, Maile met Chamber of Commerce director Lauren Sackett who offered to help Maile with executing her plan.
Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce, “Paint the Town Green” has already been introduced to area businesses through the chamber’s most recent monthly newsletter. In addition, the chamber will be including a page on their website where businesses participating in the initiative can be listed.
This isn’t Maile’s first time in trying to get more environmentally friendly business practices in Rhinelander. Last year, she approached the city council asking for a ban on Styrofoam take-out containers commonly used by many area restaurants. Maile had done some research and found that Styrene, the main component in Styrofoam, does not break down in the environment. In addition, styrene can leach into foods, especially those items that are very hot and of high fat content. After presenting to the council, Maile learned however that in Wisconsin a city is not legally able to place such a ban. This didn’t stop Maile from her ultimate goal of protecting the environment though, and needing a different approach, she came up with “Paint the Town Green.”
While this green initiative is Maile’s idea, she is counting on others, like the chamber, to help it grow. She will work on the project throughout her final year of high school but will eventually need to hand the reins to someone else. Maile is not worried though, as she feels confident that this green initiative will take hold and soon become a Rhinelander standard.
Like many her age, Maile is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. She is planning to attend college next fall and major in a design-related career. She also plans to travel. And with such an impressive accomplishment in her life already, Maile’s future definitely looks bright.
Area businesses interested in taking part in “Paint the Town Green” can contact the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce for more information.