Middle Schoolers Lauded For Carbon Initiative

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Drinking Water , Monomoy Regional Middle School , Conservation , Environment

Monomoy Middle School seventh graders were honored by State Rep. Sarah Peake (center) for their work on an award-winning project called, “The Truth About Water Bottles.”  ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM — Besting kids from other top schools in Massachusetts, a group of Monomoy Middle School students has earned top honors in an energy conservation initiative. They did it by helping their classmates kick the bottle.

Seventh graders in Nancy Gifford's class tallied how many single-use water bottles were used in the school – more than 1,000 in about two weeks – and then conducted serious research about the carbon emissions associated with making and transporting plastic bottles. Students determined that about 1.7 tons of carbon were being added to the atmosphere “just from the water bottles that were being used in our school for a year,” Gifford said.

The research didn't end there. They conducted a blind taste test of various types of bottled water, and found that the cheap store brand water tasted the best. The survey also showed that many students didn't like the chlorinated taste of the water from the school's water fountains, which was apparently prompting kids to drink bottled water.

They invited a representative from the town's water department, who described the rigorous testing of town water, and explained that some bottled water comes from less-than-pristine sources. They created a report, “The Truth About Water Bottles,” accompanied by a play, a PowerPoint presentation, posters, and a mural of the Monomoy Shark logo made from recovered water bottle caps.

Armed with that research, the class applied for a federal grant. The $2,000 from the NOAA Climate Stewards program helped the school install a water bottle filling station that provides students with cold, filtered water for their reusable bottles.

On Tuesday, the class was honored for their project. Representatives of the Cape Light Compact presented a plaque on behalf of the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, which named Monomoy Middle School its “Massachusetts Junior High School Rookie of the Year.”

“When it comes to the bottled water issue, these students understand the importance of the energy and water conservation connection, and have become a model and good example for their community,” Cape Light Compact Education Coordinator Deborah Shiflett-Fitton said.

State Rep. Sarah Peake, D–Provincetown, presented the class with a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
“Your class has outdone itself once again,” she said. Peake remarked about one of the characters in the play, an “evil CEO” of a water bottling company who used slick marketing and lies to encourage consumers to keep using single-use bottles.

“Actually, your character is not so far from the truth,” Peake said. Legislation has been stalled on Beacon Hill which would extend the five-cent deposit on soda cans and bottles to single-use water bottles, and a similar measure was defeated at the polls “because people like the 'Evil CEO' objected,” she said.

The sweetest reward came from Judy Tarr of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream in North Eastham, who provided ice cream cups for the whole class. Tarr said that she and other Ben and Jerry's franchisees pushed to have bottled water removed from their stores, replacing them with reusable bottles that can be filled with filtered water at any Ben and Jerry's location.