Steph Mantooth fills her Subaru to the brim with recycling at work when the materials begin to pile up. In business for nearly 28 years, Steph’s Studio helps keep a range of items out of their trash. She said it is important to “keep it out of the landfill for as long as you possibly can.”

Recycling and repurposing are part of the routine for Mantooth and her four employees. The photography studio also offers photofinishing, picture framing, scrapbooking supplies and art classes.

“We recycle everything we can,” she said. Behind the classroom in the adjoining building Steph’s acquired and renovated a few years ago, are bins for magazines, office paper, paperboard, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic and glass. Mantooth noted they also try to reuse as much as they can. She is saving bottle lids for potential art projects, and donated cardboard tubes to Kiddie Kampus, for example. Steph’s Studio hosts their own art classes as well as Box Butte Art Society functions. Recently, they used travel boxes and large sheets of cardboard around wooden frames for an art project. Mantooth has included old and new tiles for pore painting. She takes random hardware, junk drawer type trinkets, to make photograms on acrylic sheets with children at Dobby’s Frontier Town. This winter a resin and magazine project is a potential offering.

“I know my mom has reduced her footprint to one bag (of trash) a week, the rest they take in to recycling,” she said.

Mantooth has taken photos of Keep Alliance Beautiful staff for the website and a billboard featuring the “recycling center guys.” She recently acquired a set of rolling bins for the center on an online auction. Mantooth explained KAB reimbursed her for the purchase while she and her husband donated their time and fuel to bring them back to Alliance.

There are a lot less chemicals to work with since the advent of digital photography. There was a black and white lab and a color lab both for developing paper and negatives. They had to pull the silver out of the fixer and bleach before disposing it. Mantooth now works to find outlets to recycle ink and toner cartridges, which she said has become more difficult.

The studio and classroom space Mantooth has now was a building used for storage by the previous owner. Steph’s has helped keep Alliance beautiful by buying and expanding into the building to the south. It took a year after the purchase to get the financing to renovate, she said. “A lot of paint went into it. We refinished the floors, probably 90 percent original floor,” she said. Some of what was replaced has been transformed into art with the tiny pieces part of a class on ink transfer. Nothing was thrown away. The renovation took about two years to complete with “lots of help from lots of people,” such as local Girl Scout members.

Mantooth always keeps recycling in mind whenever they try to come up with a project. She tries to incorporate recycled materials into her Tykes and Tots photo contests. One year the recycling center held back plastic jars that they worked into a candy store scene.

“I think businesses that aren’t doing it (recycling), it’s easy to start,” Mantooth said, “with the recycling center and continue to do so. You guys bend over backwards and go out of your way to help out and to make it as easy as possible for us from picking stuff up to having regular hours -- that’s awesome.” She appreciates being able to take a greater volume to the center rather than trying to fit it into the recycling trailers, noting cardboard is an easy material to start with and keep out of the dumpster.

“It takes ALL OF US here at the studio to recycle,” Mantooth said. “Without all of us doing so it wouldn’t happen.”

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