This past year, GreenAllies, a national non-profit organization based in southeastern Pennsylvania, conducted its 2017 National Challenge. GreenAllies is a 501c3 nonprofit with a mission to empower and support students to innovate and lead environmental sustainability efforts. The National Challenge is a contest that has students around the country compete in a contest by taking the initiative on creating and leading a sustainability project.
The winner of the 2017 National Challenge was Isabella Pardales, a senior from Yarmouth High School in Maine. Pardales’ project is a campaign that would help educate students about the benefits of using reusable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles.
Pardales had posters and stickers made with her campaign’s name on it all around her school. Over 200 stickers were given out to students and others.
In her presentation on “Take Back the Tap”, Pardales laid down some facts and statistics. “Not selling bottled water for one day in the cafeteria meant that over 50 individual bottles would not enter the waste stream,” said Pardales. She then stated, “Over 150 reusable water bottles sold to students will result in less individual bottles entering the waste stream.”
At first, Pardales wanted her project to be about eliminating bottled water sales at her school, but according to her school’s cafeteria director, it was not economically feasible to do so.
“Bottled water is a large source of revenue for our cafeteria and a complete ban on its sale was not economically feasible this year,” said Pardales. She added, “I worked closely with our nutrition director to assess the financial impact a full ban would have and we decided to focus primarily on increasing student participation in the cafeteria in order to be able to one day facilitate a full ban.”
When confronted with challenges, Pardales had GreenAllies right there for support. She spoke about the guidance she received from GreenAllies.
“My mentor Venus was extremely supportive of my endeavors and always pushed me to think one step ahead. She understood the challenges I faced and helped me to tackle them head on,” said Pardales. “She encouraged me to involve the community outside of my school as much as possible when planning events like a film screening,” she added.
To help get her message out, Pardales screened a documentary called “Tapped,” a film about the impact bottled water has on the environment.
Although this campaign was directed at helping to educate the community, Pardales herself also learned a lot from the project.
“This project solidified for me my interest in environmental activism,” said Pardales when she was asked what she learned from directing the project. She also went on to describe how much it impacted her.
“I have volunteered on many campaigns, attended many trainings, and participated in many direct actions, but never have I initiated a campaign on my own. It required a different level of participation, organization, and focus that I was used to. I hope to continue initiating campaigns similar to Take Back the Tap at college and beyond.”