Water, good. Bottles, bad

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Picture your average classroom and look around. How many plastic water bottles do you see around you? How does the number of plastic bottles compare to the number of reusable bottles?  You may think, “Okay, but it’s just one classroom, twenty students, and a few plastic bottles. How much does it really matter?” But pursuing this mindset can lead to detrimental consequences.

According to the Earth Day Network, Americans alone purchase about 50 billion plastic water bottles every year. But how does our community contribute to this number? We talked to an experienced custodian to find out a little more about how our own Canfield High School handles waste.

Custodian David Dickey, who has been working here for around twelve years says he has already noticed a significant increase in trash production. Working in the cafeteria, he informs us we fill about 25 full size garbage cans every day alone. Canfield has two dumpsters stationed around its perimeter and according to custodians, we fill both about three times a week.

Although the amount of trash produced is at a record high, it is unlikely to decrease. Custodian David Dickey comments, “I don’t know if there’s ways to reduce it only because of the volume of people that come through here. It’s not like the middle school or elementary schools, the public comes here for basketball games, wrestling matches, football, you name it – they create trash.”

At the start of the 2018 school year, the owner of the reusable water bottle company S’well, Sarah Kauss donated over 320,000 reusable water bottles to New York public and charter schools in the hopes of reducing single-use bottles. It may seem unrealistic for that philanthropy to be extended to every school in America or globally, but it begs for a more reasonable solution to be implemented at CHS.

Colleges such as Columbia University and Cal Berkeley have issued campus-wide water bottle bans as a solution to the plastic dilemma, but with roughly 230 water bottles being sold daily, it seems highly unlikely CHS will consider discontinuing them from the cafeteria line up.

When presenting this information to students, responses varied across the spectrum with two drastic responses: those who cared and those unfazed.

“I really love the quote ‘The earth is what we all have in common’ by Wendell Berry,” said student Ella Hazy. “I just don’t see what’s the harm in helping the earth. We’re all going to die if we don’t, so the cost benefit analysis shows we should care.”

However, the exact opposite feelings can be seen by student David Rivera, who said, “It won’t affect me until I’m dead. Plus I feel unless everyone participates in helping it won’t make a difference. So what’s the point?”

With solutions seeming unrealistic because of people’s dependence on convenience, CHS offers a question… The average student buys two water bottles a day which results in a total of $2.50 a day. Multiplied by the average amount of school days in a month –  20 – that leaves us with a total of $50. Multiplied again by the amount of months we are in school, the average Canfield High School student spends $450 on water bottles every school year. The average price of a reusable water bottle is only $20 dollars. Now tell us, why do you not care?

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