On the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, after chowing down on a pronto pup, master recycler Renae Kuehl of St. Louis Park has stationed herself behind a compost tub filled with earthworms in the Eco Experience building.
A shy, young girl approaches, peering down at the wet mush of leaves in various stages of decomposition.
“What do you think, do worms eat garbage?” Kuehl asks the girl.
When the girl nods “No” from beneath a green foam visor, an exaggerated look of surprise forms on Kuehl’s face and she launches into a succinct lesson in the art of composting.
The girl looks somewhat overwhelmed, but when Kuehl repeats her question about worms’ dietary habits, the visor goes up and then down, and its owner receives a "Reuse, Recycle" magnetic puzzle piece.
Kuehl, a civil engineer at SRF Consulting, volunteered with the Pollution Control Agency’s exhibit at the fair as part of her required community service hours for taking the Hennepin County Master Recyclers/Composters training course.
“I’ve always been passionate about recycling my whole life,” she said.
For the two-month training course, Kuehl was taught by industry experts and took field trips to local waste processing and recycling facilities.
She’s required to volunteer 30 hours total as part of her payment for the course.
Before her volunteer shift started at 3 p.m. Thursday, Kuehl had helped man a booth in Carousel Park about the Future City Engineering competition in which 6th- through 8th-graders design an urban landscape using Sim City and create solutions to municipal challenges such as storm-water managem