Whatever it was, Aztec Ruins rangers, who stood ready to recycle all that Christmas cardboard waste were not very busy Saturday.
The national monument hosted events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday to make it easy for people to recycle cardboard instead of tossing it into the trash. But both events saw sparse turnout.
"We received some calls leading up to the events," said Park guide Shiana Montanari. "Not one person came Thursday. Although we did have some people Saturday."
The park has been busy during the holidays with visitors touring the Great Kiva and the many complicated paths through the ancient Puebloan adobe mud structures. For the monument's "green" events this week, not so much.
Park guide Cyresa Bloom said the park had received around 100 visitors each day in the last week. "It varies, but we do see greater numbers by spring break when the weather warms up," she said.
This fall, the park formed a 5-person green committee dedicated to facilitating environmentally oriented events and activities to spur local interest and engagement.
A committee's event held in November celebrated America Recycles Day, proclaimed by President Obama as a day for "all Americans to continue their reducing, reusing, and recycling efforts throughout the year."
Montanari said 26 people brought over 400 pounds of recyclable materials for that event. Rangers offered games and prizes for children, including a pledge card to learn more about local recycle programs and commit to reducing personal waste by recycling more often.
"On that day we accepted electronics along with standard fare materials like cardboard and bottles," she said. "We even took a broken record player and donated it to a record store in Durango."
According to America Recycles Day, the nation's recycling rate has increased steadily since 1980, to a high of 34 percent on average now.
Elisa Bird, Educational Outreach Director for local green group Sustainable San Juan, was guardedly optimistic about the local community's investment in recycling and the environment and cheered by Aztec Ruin's efforts.
"I applaud that they're reaching out to Aztec and beyond," Bird said. "It may take time - and I've been here long enough to know its uphill nature - so the key is to keep puttin' on events, reaching out to local schools, and keep doin' it, doin' it."
By mid-afternoon on Saturday, Montanari stood, wearing her winter park jacket and signature rim hat, beside a picnic table topped with a modest pile of cardboard boxes. One man drove up and dropped off a bag of magazines and newspapers. A little while later, another car drove up, but most of the day, Montanari watched people enter the park for tours.
Many of the cardboard boxes, some flattened, once contained everyday household items like orange juice and bleach bottles or holiday gifts like a Barbie play set and Diamond Head ukuleles purchased at Main Street music.
In January, the park will celebrate its 90th birthday with a full day of events, cake and ice cream, an evening speaker, and more recycling efforts, Montanari said.
"If the community has ideas on how to get people more excited about recycling, we're all for it," she said. "We are open most every day of the year and always eager to take suggestions."
For more information, call Aztec Ruins at (505) 334-6174 or Sustainable San Juan at (505) 716-3915..