Environment Matters Podcast
EPA Region 3
Topic: Messages in a Bottle
Date: August 29, 2008
Lena Kim: Hi. I'm Lena Kim of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters - our new series of podcasts.
Nearly 40 years ago, some of the most important footprints were left on the moon by the Apollo astronauts. Families at the time gathered around TV sets to see the grainy, black and white images of the tracks left by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
These days, other important footprints are capturing our attention – the ones we all leave here on Earth – our environmental footprints.
One group of fifth graders in Bridgewater, New Jersey is doing something to tread a little lighter on the planet.
The class at the Hillside Intermediate School won an EPA contest challenging elementary school students to reduce their carbon footprints. The contest was open to family members of EPA regional employees.
Teacher Amy Platt says the project, called Messages in a Bottle, was designed to reduce the amount of single-use water bottles being consumed at the school.
Amy Platt: The project was really student-driven. Since the beginning of the school year, we had the kids start researching things they were concerned about in the world and things they wanted to change. And we found that most of the students in the class really wanted to do something about the environment. We had the kids write persuasive essays and most of them wrote persuasive essays about recycling. So we started looking around our classroom and our school to see what we could do and we started to notice that in our classroom our recycling bin was always overflowing with the single use plastic water bottles. It's great that our school recycles but then our kids started thinking what else could we do?
Lena Kim: The 22 students designed school water bottles as a substitute for the plastic bottles that are tossed away after the water is consumed. The special bottles were sold to students and community members, and the proceeds are being used to buy recycling bins for the school's outdoor playgrounds and soccer fields.
Amy Platt: We found that a lot of times people that are using the single use water bottles are maybe outside at sporting events and they don’t have a place to recycle those bottles so we wanted to nip that problem in the bud as well. It was just a really great project and we reduced the amount of water bottles that we used in our classroom by more than 50 percent. There were students that were coming in each day with all these facts about how long it takes for the single use plastic water bottles to break down and how only a small percentage of them even end up making it into the recycling bin. They were really proud and extremely excited when they found out that they won this project and when they saw the plaque and when they got their backpacks. They were really happy and felt like they could do something to make a difference.
Lena Kim: The contest for elementary school students was co-sponsored by the EPA mid-Atlantic region's Children's Health and Environmental Education programs. Prentiss Ward, the region's children's health coordinator, says it was inspiring to read the entries.
Prentiss Ward: The students rose to the challenge with this contest and there were very impressive entries that were very innovative, sustainable and collaborative with great results showing that the children protecting the environment and that their actions will hopefully change their behavior for the future to come.
Lena Kim: To learn more about the project, visit our Web site at www.epa.gov/region3 and click on Children's Health and then Earth Day contest winners.
And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our new series of podcasts.