The current climate crisis has been greater than ever before, as global temperatures continually increase, sea levels rise, and ecosystems fall apart. Across the world, people are doing their part to prevent further damage to the environment. One of the most important movements in the fight against climate change has been reducing waste, one of the most common culprits. There is a significant “throw away” culture in society, especially among Americans, but where does our trash end up when thrown away? The answer: landfills, places where it can take years or decades to decompose and produces carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Plastic, one of the most common materials we see in daily life, can take up to a millennium to decompose. If Shakespeare had plastic in his time, it’s likely still around today.
Thankfully, Chatham High School has taken significant strides to reduce its plastic output and lower its carbon footprint. For instance, you may have noticed that traditional plastic water bottles in the cafeteria have been replaced with Boxed Water, a more sustainable enclosure made of paper, a more eco-friendly material. Paper breaks down a lot quicker, cutting possibly 1,000 years to a mere two to six weeks, therefore sticking around for far less time compared to plastic. Additionally, the switch to Boxed Water has prompted many students to begin bringing their own reusable water bottles.
One of the most impressive steps CHS has taken to becoming more environmentally friendly has been the water bottle refilling stations placed around the school, an add-on to regular water fountains. We’ve all had the experience of having to tilt a bottle at some awkward angle to fill it up using a traditional fountain, but these stations make refilling a breeze. By placing your water bottle at the back of the refilling station, a sensor detects it and automatically activates a water stream that begins filling it up from the top, rather than the side. When the bottle is filled, simply pull it out, and you’re done. There’s even a small screen at the top that demonstrates how many plastic bottles the machine has saved, so you can see your own help in its net impact. It’s a popular system that is easier, less wasteful, and less expensive compared to buying a fresh new water container from the cafeteria. Even if you’ve already purchased a new Boxed Water or plastic bottle and drank it, refilling is still an enticing option instead of buying another one- these stations are not built exclusively for reusable water bottles after all.
You may have also noticed the green, yellow, and red lights on the refilling station, which demonstrate the “quality of filtration.” Though the light is often green and water contamination is currently a non-issue at CHS, at least having this system in place helps to alert students and staff to faulty water filtration, unlike regular water fountains — an added benefit. The filters are certified to reduce contaminants like lead, chlorine, dirt, and metal particles, so you can leave the station feeling rest assured that the water you’re drinking is safe. When I asked Principal Groh about it, he asserted that “at CHS, [the administration is] taking steps to reduce [the school’s] reliance on single-use plastics in order to reduce our environmental impact and instill in students the importance of conservation . . . We encourage students to bring a reusable water bottle and take advantage of the water that is available at these refilling stations.”
So, next time you go to take a sip from your water bottle and realize it’s empty, head to a refilling station. There’s probably one right down the hallway.