NORTH ANSON — High school freshman Emily Poulin is used to drinking bottled water at home, even though she says it isn’t the best option for the environment.
At school, though, Poulin has started to carry a reusable stainless steel water bottle between classes.
“I feel like it’s important to save the Earth. Not a lot of people do it, and some people think it’s not really worth doing or don’t want to try at it, but I do,” Poulin said.
She is one of several members of Carrabec High School’s freshman class who took a pledge Tuesday saying that they would try to reduce the school’s waste by using reusable bottles and not buying bottled water sold in plastic.
Take Back the Tap, an initiative that started at Carrabec last school year, is trying to raise awareness about the amount of bottles that are thrown out and contribute to global waste each year while at the same time encouraging the school community to do what they can to change that.
Americans buy an estimated 42.6 billion single-serving plastic water bottles each year. Almost 8 out of 10 end up in a landfill or incinerator, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
The project, which received funding from two environmental agencies, has been used to purchase reusable water bottles for most of the school’s 220 students and two filling stations for the water bottles. The first filling station was installed over Christmas vacation and is being used by students including the freshman class, who received their reusable bottles Tuesday.
Located in the cafeteria, the filling station works to facilitate getting tap water into the reusable bottle. It also tracks the number of times a bottle has been refilled, a number that represents the estimated number of plastic water bottles saved. On Tuesday morning, the station said 413 bottles had been saved after just five days of use.
“Hopefully it will generate awareness about the amount of plastic waste that is generated. We really want to educate people,” said Lisa Savage, the school’s literacy coach, who helped the students write grants for the project.
Take Back the Tap was started last April by a group of four high school seniors who wrote grants for the proposed project and planned the distribution of bottles and installation of the filling stations. They received a $975 grant from Pine Tree Youth Organizing in Belgrade and a $1,000 grant from the Davis Foundations in Yarmouth.
A survey was conducted among students who taste-tested various types of bottled and tap water, with the results showing that temperature had more to do with preference than did the source of the water. Another survey found that 32 percent of the school’s faculty and staff drank bottled water every day.
A first group of water bottles was distributed to students last spring. Freshmen students who were not in the school last year received theirs to coincide with the installation of the filling stations, the second of which will be installed this week, Savage said.
Susan Hellewell, an environmental science teacher who also worked on the project, said introducing the idea to the freshmen class is not just about encouraging them to participate in reducing waste, but also in making them aware of the kinds of things students can achieve by writing grants.
“There’s a lot of money out there that people want to give to students who have good ideas. If there’s a project out there that they want to undertake, they should go for it,” Hellewell said.
Poulin, who lives in North Anson, said her mother buys a lot of bottled water at home because their well water doesn’t taste good.
“You kind of have to do it because the water tastes so bad,” Poulin said. But because of the high school project, she hopes to encourage her family to find ways to buy fewer plastic water bottles.
Taylor Stewart, 14, of Anson, another freshman student, said she usually doesn’t drink a lot of bottled water and tries to carry a resuable bottle.
“It reduces the use of plastic, which is good. I always try to carry my own water bottle,” Stewart said.
Rachel Ohm — firstname.lastname@example.org