NORTH ANSON — A group of students in an environmental studies class at Carrabec High School are trying to reduce waste by encouraging students and faculty to drink tap water from reusable water bottles.

The students, along with two teachers at the school, have started a program called Carrabec Takes Back Tap, through which they plan to buy reusable stainless-steel water bottles for all students and staff and to upgrade the school’s aging water fountains. They recently received a grant to help with the first part of their two-phase project and are hoping to make a difference in their community and the state.

“I was so struck by the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and the ocean. We wanted to do something to change it and to change our community,” said Ashlee Knight, 18, a senior.

Knight is one of four students, all senior girls, in an elective environmental studies class. She said that at the beginning of the year the class involved a lot of book-based learning and that she and her classmates wanted to do something more hands-on to raise awareness.

According to a survey the girls conducted among the school’s 265 students and faculty, 32 percent said they drink bottled water every day.

The girls said that bottled water is marketed as a healthy alternative to soda but that no one ever encourages them to drink tap water. The school also has aging water fountains that need to be replaced and deter people from refilling water bottles, said Knight.

“A lot of people say they don’t like to drink out of them because they’re old and gross,” she said.

All of these things contribute to a buildup of waste in the environment and harm ecosystems, said Francesca Pray, another student in the class who is involved with the project.

“We wanted to do something and we started thinking about how we could reduce plastic bottle use,” she said.

Lisa Savage, a faculty member who specializes in writing skills, and environmental studies teacher Susan Hellewell agreed to help the girls with the two-part project they came up with: buying reusable water bottles and getting new water fountains. The girls conducted research and wrote and submitted grant proposals for their ideas.

“They are a small group of really sharp students that are cooperative with each other. They did an awesome job,” said Savage.

As a result, the school recently received a $965 grant from Pine Tree Youth Organizing in Belgrade to buy the water bottles and is applying for another grant to get the water fountains.

On Monday, which was Earth Day, a day of national awareness of preserving and caring for the planet, the school placed its order for the stainless steel water bottles, which are expected to arrive in about two weeks. They will come in yellow, blue and orange and display the “Carrabec Takes Back Tap” slogan.

Principal Regina Campbell said she is proud of the students for collaborating to solve a problem.

“It’s an amazing idea and its not just about the bottles. They saw a problem and instead of wringing their hands they did something about it,” she said.

Anson-based School Administrative District 74, which also includes the towns of Embden, New Portland and North Anson, anticipates a loss of $30,745 in state subsidies during the 2013-14 school year, according to superintendent Ken Coville. They are also facing the prospect of paying for teacher retirement costs and additional costs to send some students to charter schools.

“It’s nice to see our own kids doing something rather than saying we don’t have the money in the budget,” said Campbell. “We can look for that money.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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