SERT looks to “Ban the Bottle,” installs new eco-friendly water fountains

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Daisy Grant

The new water bottle fountains recently installed in the school may seem like they simply popped up overnight, but in reality, the School Energy and Recycling Team (SERT) has been working for months on this project.

In the summer of 2015, current senior Summer Oh and her SERT members developed a proposal in conjunction with the Ban the Bottle initiative, detailing the benefits and costs of installing such water fountains. Now, a full year later, their vision is finally coming to fruition.

Oh, who serves as president of SERT, explained their motivation: “We wanted to make a difference in our school about how much waste we’re producing so… we created a proposal about how we could join the Ban the Bottle initiative.”

Ban the Bottle is an organization that seeks to eliminate the use of disposable water bottles within school and work environments. Oh agrees with this initiative wholeheartedly, explaining, “Ending the use of disposable water bottles at our school will save thousands of plastic bottles a year from entering our environment, protecting animals from harm and our planet from pollution.”

Motivated by the organization, Oh and the SERT vice-presidents, seniors Jenny Chen and Joseph Li, got to work on the RM branch of the movement. The first step? Water bottle fountains.

From the beginning of the effort, student SERT members had a huge role in leading the charge. “They were the ones who asked to meet with Mr. Monteleone, created the presentation of how this would benefit RM, came up with ideas of how to raise money, helped me fill out the paperwork to send to MCPS, and continue to work with me on ways to raise more money for this movement,” secretary Laura Hermansdorfer, sponsor of SERT, said.

“Installing water bottle fountains… would increase the use of reusable water bottles at our school,” Oh explained. But before they could purchase the fountains, they had to raise the money the project required.

Fundraising $8000 is no easy feat. “SERT meet[s] on Fridays to go classroom to classroom to help shut off lights and close blinds to conserve energy over the weekend,” Miss Hermansdorfer detailed. This weekend shutdown bagged them the number one slot in the county for saving energy in the last school quarter. This accomplishment won them $1000 from the county SERT.

RM’s SERT also entered several competitions, including a Lead By Example contest. “[It] is a contest for schools to do projects to help become the most eco-friendly school, so we became the greenest school in the county for last year through our proposal, and we won money from that,” Oh explained. The rest of the fund came from a silent auction and the club’s GoFundMe page, which offers shoutouts and commemorative plaques to those who donate

The innovative fundraising plans for the water bottles worked. By the third week of September the first water bottle fountain was installed near the media center, with another near the Hall Sweep area following close behind. More recently, a water fountain was installed on the third floor.

Oh explained the strategic positioning of the fountains, saying, “Because these fountains were replacing two old fountains, they can’t be in very crowded locations in the school, but we still want them in key locations of the building.”

The new fountains have generated quite a buzz throughout the school. “It’s really helpful,” freshman Kyra Wisneski said. “It’s more efficient water, and there’s a lot of athletes that fill up their water bottles.”

Wisneski and fellow freshman Marianne Fessel described their love for the filtered water. “It’ll definitely encourage people to use reusable water bottles,” Fessel added.

However, the initiative is far from over. Oh explained, “The next step of our plan would be to get rid of the selling of plastic water bottles in our school, like from the vending machines and the cafeteria, even sports events, if we could get to that point.” The club looks to continue to raise money for more water bottle fountains and the materials needed to filter the water.

Despite their current focus on Ban the Bottle, the club also has other goals for the future. Miss Hermansdorfer voiced her opinion, saying, “I think it would be great to see more solar power or more green roofs at our school.”

Oh hopes to continue the green movement at the school, making it one of the most eco-friendly schools in the country. She added, “I would love for the whole school to get as passionate as we are about the environment so we have these next generations who actually care about changing the world.”