By Jennifer Hoegg
Hundreds of plastic water bottles, strung across the cafeteria at Horton High School, represent just a portion of the waste generated in the school each month.
The school’s environment club hung approximately three weeks worth of discarded water bottles over the cafeteria to draw attention to what one member calls an “unnecessary purchase.”
“We were brainstorming ideas of how we could make a difference and impact our school,” Grade 12 student Maxine Both said. “Someone suggested the idea and we just decided to run with it. We wanted to be one of the first schools in the Valley to do it.”
Members of the group have been fundraising for wells in India for five years, said Tracy Webb – a staff advisor for the club, along with Theresa Pelley - so the project is a good fit.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” the teacher said.
“There is an increasing awareness about the issue – and about removing water bottles from public spaces.”
Citadel High School and parts of Acadia University’s campus are bottled water-free zones, for example.
Members of the club aim to change their fellow students’ behaviour, through the display of bottles, education on the environmental impact and offering an alternative: subsidized reusable bottles.
When classes began last week, water vending machines were gone and stainless steel water bottles were available for sale. Funding from a number of sponsors – Jungle Jim’s, Credit Union, Nova Scotia Education Facilities Societies, and the students’ council – will allow the environment club to sell the reusable water bottles for around $2.
“That’s not that different from buying a plastic water bottle, and then you only have to buy it once,” Georgia Stanley said.
A filling station in the cafeteria will help, she added, and the club is partnering with the Options and Opportunities program students who are fundraising to add a second filling station.
Reaction to the project so far has been positive, the students say.
“(The project) definitely stands out in the cafeteria,” Stanley said of the 700 or more plastic bottles strung above the hall. “People definitely notice it.”
The display has sparked a few questions from their fellow students.
Webb pointed out Horton has been an environmental leader on other issues.
“We were the first school in province to establish a no-idle zone, but now that all the counties have taken that on, it’s lost in the mist of history,” she said. “But that’s a good thing. Now that’s just the standard that all schools are idle free.”
While the school will lose their share of the profit from the sale of bottled water, Webb said members of the administration are completely behind the project.
The teens are keen on reducing the amount of plastic the school produces, cutting down on the number of disposable water bottles kids use outside of class – and saving students money along the way.
“And, when you think about it, most people, when they get the bottled water, they don’t bother recycling it, it goes straight to the trash,” Leila Innes pointed out. “And to recycle the plastic requires a lot of chemicals.”
There is also the environmental impact of shipping what is often regular tap water large distances to consider, Webb added.
“It’s probably the biggest marketing scam of the 21st century.”
And it’s something Stanley thinks can be easily changed by using a reusable bottle. “It seems crazy that people continue to buy them when there is an easy solution,” she said.
Next, the group hopes to work with sports teams to offer reusable water bottles at tournament canteens.