Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Jason Brown, right, explains areas to be covered Saturday as part of an effort by the Mormons for Equality and Social Justice to encourage recycling in Provo.

PROVO — With a plastic bag of organic, bunny-shaped crackers in one hand and a stack of recycled-paper fliers clutched in the other, James Lyons started out on a mission Saturday to persuade Provo residents to sign up for the city's voluntary recycling program.

"Throwing garbage into the ground and covering it up with dirt is not justifiable by any means," said Lyons, a 43-year-old contractor from Provo. "Most of our garbage can be eliminated — we throw so much away that can be reused."

Lyons, along with about 10 other members of the Utah County chapter of the grass-roots organization Mormons for Equality and Social Justice, spent the day walking door to door trying to dispel residents' reservations about recycling. The group plans to knock on the door of every home in Provo by the end of the summer.

James Brown, 26, the organization's president, estimated they have about 16,000 homes to tackle. Only about 2,000 of those homes have purchased recycling services from the city, he said, and that is plenty of motivation to keep knocking.

Activists paired up and each couple took a nine-block area. Some set off on foot, some on bicycles and one pair rode off on a motorcycle.

By being consistent, Brown said, he is confident the group's efforts will raise the number of people involved in the recycling program from 10 percent to 50 percent.

Brown has been involved in recycling activism since he came to Provo to attend Brigham Young University three years ago. Many members of the Mormons for Equality and Social Justice are passionate about recycling, he said, leading to the group's decision to focus the majority of its efforts this summer on promoting the environmentalist cause.

"I think it's a good environmental issue to start with in Utah County because it's a good issue to present to people who may be turned off by media labels of environmentalism," he said.

Activist Nathalie Staffler, 29, said she has worked on several projects to promote recycling in Provo before, but none of them has ever gotten off the ground.

"I am excited that people have finally gathered with enough energy to do something," she said.

Staffler, who moved from Switzerland to attend BYU, expects the project will consume most of her Saturdays for the rest of the season, but she doesn't mind.

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Early successes were encouraging for her and Lyons, who knocked on doors together. The first home they approached belonged to 69-year-old Margene Snow, who seemed excited about their message.

Snow said she had thought about getting involved in a recycling program before but "just hadn't gotten it done." Speaking with Lyons and Staffler was the extra little push she needed to get motivated, she said.

"I think I'll do it," she said. "I think I'll sign up. I mean, why not?"

To sign up for Provo's recycling program, call 852-6000. For more information about the Mormons for Equality and Social Justice, send an e-mail to mesj.out@gmail.com.

E-mail: estuart@desnews.com