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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
For Jessica Arsenault, one person’s trash is another’s Winter Classic.

Claiming first prize at the 17th annual I*MA*GREEN*NATION Celebration in Albany, the 14-year-old demonstrated that recycling can come in many forms – even Ralph Wilson Stadium.

For her efforts, she was recognized with other winners at an award ceremony following the event.

“I knew it had to be big and I knew it had to show how recyclables can be made into art… and I wanted people to see just what you can do with them,” Arsenault, of North Tonawanda, said of the project.

The eighth-grader opted to make a replica of the Jan. 1 outdoor rink completely out of reused materials for the arts and crafts portion of the competition.

Sponsored by the New York State Senate, the contest aims at encouraging students from first grade to eighth grade “to use their imaginations to develop ideas to improve recycling and protect our natural resources,” according to its Web site.

“It’s just helping people learn about it and trying to make kids our age, who are going to be the future, think of how to help,” Arsenault said.

Her inspiration came after watching a Buffalo Sabres game. In the process of attempting to replicate one of the structures from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China- an event that has taken large strides in going green- she found that time constraints would make it difficult to complete.

“We were watching the hockey game and my dad said ‘why don’t you just do that?’ So I decided to do it and made the Winter Classic instead,” Arsenault said.

Using more than 600 pop-can tabs- which she bent to form seating- wrappers, Popsicle sticks and cardboard boxes, Arsenault constructed a full stadium with materials from home.

“There were 528 chairs and we used more [pop tabs] than that,” Arsenault said. “Probably more than I can count.”

Wrapping from plastic pop bottles were placed around the perimeter of the structure and cardboard signs displayed the jersey numbers of the Sabres participating in the game.

In all, Arsenault estimated the Winter Classic recreation took more than a month, including “a lot of weekends,” to complete.

“I think I wanted to try and prove a point that you can make something out of trash,” she said. “It’s not just something you throw in the garbage. You can actually make something out of it and it can be really cool.”
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