As Emily Young observed the hoopla before and after the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990, she hoped – as did many other environmentalists – that it heralded the opening of an era of heightened awareness and commitment.

The key was to encourage individuals involved in recycling paper, plastic, glass and aluminum at home and at work. But for Americans, who for so long have considered anything they don’t need as “trash,” re-education would require some creativity.

Young, a lawyer and part-time entrepreneur, decided to accept the challenge. She designed and marketed a high-tech recycling cabinet that would be attractive to adults, and then devised a pair of playfully illustrated cardboard recycling boxes for children called E-cola-gy and Canosaurus.

“I think if you make it equally easy to do right or wrong, most people will cooperate and do right,” Young says.

Despite a general increase in recycling nationwide, Young’s products met with mixed success. The hand-crafted wooden recycling cabinets sold slowly, partly because of the $300 price tag required to cover production costs, while the children’s boxes sold moderately well and were featured in “Woman’s Day” magazine and on television’s “Regis & Kathie Lee” and “Good Morning America.”

“What we found was a lot of people were not yet ready to commit $300 to recycling, but I do believe the time is coming,” she says. “We were just a little early.”

Because of increased demands from her solo law practice, Young stopped manufacturing the cabinets and has licensed the Canosaurus boxes to a Canadian company that makes other children’s recycling products. For the time being, she plans to limit her recycling business to design work.

“I still believe there is a future in recycling and related products, but I don’t think anyone has come up with a good way to sell recycling to consumers,” Young says.

“And there’s still a problem with not having enough places where recyclables can be processed.”

Young’s part-time venture into design and marketing, in addition to fulfilling a need for a creative outlet, provided a much-needed respite after five stressful years of practicing law in a one-person office where her largest cases involved claims of product liability, legal malpractice, civil rights and personal injury.

Business associates know Young as a principled, dedicated, aggressive lawyer not afraid to take difficult cases or risk the wrath of opposing counsel or judges when she feels a wrong has been done.

Sometimes, as in a 1989 case in which Young wrangled with a prominent attorney and a state district judge in South Texas, “some of that might get her in a little over her head,” says Houston civil attorney Sidney Ravkind, who has served as co-counsel to Young.

“Certainly her having the guts to undertake that venture impressed me.”

To family and longtime friends, however, Young is a fun-loving games enthusiast, classical guitarist, amateur artist, avid skier and creative thinker whose personal relationships endure for decades.

Her husband of more than 15 years is the boy she fell in love with at age 12, and a circle of about 40 friends she has known since they were students at the University of Texas at Arlington, hold annual reunions.

Some of Young’s artistic vision is evident in the rough-cedar cottage near White Rock Lake that she and her husband have enlarged, modernized and embellished during the past 13 years.

Young also has been involved in volunteer activities such as the Lawyers Against Domestic Violence sub-committee of the Dallas Young Lawyers Association, which inspired her to help adult survivors of childhood incest pursue claims against their attackers to pay for counseling/

“These are not enormously profitable lawsuits, but I feel that lawyers owe it to the community to take hard cases that may be emotionally difficult or financially unrewarding,” says Young, who recently relocated her office to the Deep Ellum area.

“I take personal satisfaction out of representing people that no one else will represent, and that’s because I think the courthouse should be open to everyone and not just the people who have big-money cases or cases that have a high publicity value.”