Environmental club floods New Trier with Nalgenes

Students and staff receive free water bottles in effort to reduce waste

Nora Crumley

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On Jan. 20, Environmental club distributed free water bottles to staff and students in an effort to reach their goal of eliminating the sale of single-use plastic water bottles from campus.

After months of planning and meetings, Environmental Club distributed free NT inscribed Nalgenes to the over 4,000 staff, faculty, and students.

Environmental Club co-leader, senior Jacob Weinstein described the purpose of this initiative as the first step “towards our end goal of eliminating the sale of single-use plastic waste. We needed to provide people with an alternative to using single-use water bottles.” Maxwell Kanter, senior and club co-leader, described the water bottles as a concrete reminder of the duty we all have towards the environment,

“We provided people with a tangible means to better the environment, instead of giving people mental and moral tools that don’t resonate with peers our age.”

The initiative is part of a large push to eliminate the sale of single-use plastic water bottles and was first pitched by Greg Vasilion, a New Trier graduate from 2013, according to club sponsor Raquelle Brennan.

But some say the idea of distributing free water bottles has been circulating New Trier for 20 years.

“We were the first people to actually do this after the 20 years of people trying this,” Kanter said.

According to the club leaders, the recent push to eliminate the use of single-use plastic water bottles began with a meeting with Quest to see if stopping the sale of plastic water bottles was possible.

“Quest does give us access to their sales. The only reason we could not get rid of single-use plastic water bottles was because people buy them and the food providers don’t want to get rid of a product that sells,” Kanter said.

“We would have to give them a product that equivocates the same revenue of single-use plastic water bottles, but we didn’t want to have to think about that, so we decided the next best idea was to provide every student and staff with a free alternative to plastic waste and that was the Nalgene.”

Environmental Club then approached the administration about acquiring the funds needed for the initiative.

When approached with the initiative, the district was impressed according to Winnetka Principal Denise Dubravec.

Dubravec added, via email, “The message that the district is sending is that we both encourage students to make healthy eating choices at school by promoting water, and that the choice can be made in a manner that reduces the environmental impact.”

Students were similarly pleased by the initiative.

Senior Hannah Miller agreed with the environmental benefits of the free water bottles.

“It is a really good way for New Trier students to show their willingness to help and appreciation for the environment.”

Students are also seeing beyond the environmental benefits of these water bottles.

Senior Irqa Merchant said the water bottles will remind people to stay hydrated and fight dehydration.

Despite the initiative’s positive feedback, many students are concerned about the cost of supplying water bottles to over 4000 people.

“Its counteractive to have plastic water bottles still available to buy but spend thousands of dollars to provide water bottles for all the students when I feel like a lot of people don’t even use them,” Senior Isaac Yon said.

And Sophomore Olivia Luna said, “it shows the amount of privledge  we have as a school.”

Junior Julia Yang commented on the cost, “I heard how much money we spent on them and I just think its a bit extra to give water bottles because some people already have them.

The water bottle initiative cost the district $25,000 and was funded “By surplus student activity funds that are not tied to a specific club or activity,” according to Dubravec.

In response to some student’s claim that the purchase was futile, Weinstein said, “We are an environmental club and we are going to do what is most environmentally impactful for New Trier.”

“We thought a great majority of students at school already have reusable water bottles, so why not just only buy them for the student that don’t have reusable water bottles,” Kanter said.

“But then we realized we don’t want to give anybody at this school an excuse to buy a plastic bottle.”

Environmental club will be monitoring the bottle filling stations to measure the success of their initiative.

In the few days since the distribution of free water bottles, the club leaders have already seen an increase in numbers.

“Since the start of this year, once a week, we have been going around to all the filling stations and recording the numbers. We can show the progression of how many water bottles will be filled if we seen an increase. The rate should shoot up incredibly. We have already seen that on Friday there were long lines at each station so we know at least this project has been somewhat successful,” Luu said.

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