Dumpster-diver gets “Green Schools” award

TAMPA — Matt Mooney, 16, says dumpster-diving for aluminum cans isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

During the past three years, Mooney, a Junior at Land O’ Lakes High School, has collected 1.1 million cans, turning them into $15,000 cash. But he and his friends didn’t keep the money — it went to a local Habitat for Humanity program to build homes for needy families.

For his efforts, Mooney tonight won the first Green Schools Award issued by Gov. Charlie Crist.

“It’s all worth it,” said Mooney, whose dumpster-diving efforts have made the Tampa Bay area evening news. “It’s a lot of time we put into it. The benefit now and into the future will be a lot greater.”

Other winners include Joshua Clearman’s class at Key West High School, which created the Alternative Energy Center to help students adopt emerging green technology; teacher Allan Phipps at South Plantation High School for helping students create two solar-energy cars that competed at the national level; Odyssey Charter School in Palm Bay for activities including capturing natural daylight and using locally grown fruits and vegetables; and the Pasco County School District for its “Raising Awareness for Conservation” Project.

“For me, this has truly been an extraordinary evening and one that has been an inspiration,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole said in presenting the awards.

Each of the winners receives $1,500 in cash. Progress Energy is the presenting sponsor for the awards program.