Spotlight: High School Student Anna Hankins Takes on Plastics

Spotlight: High School Student Anna Hankins Takes on Plastics

How many times have you thrown away a plastic bottle this week? That’s the question high school student and cause leader Anna Hankins wants people to think about the next time they buy a one-use plastic water bottle. Anna launched a petition in January of 2013 to get vending machines that sell bottled water out of her school. Anna chatted with us last week and gave us the scoop: “We have 13 Aquafina vending machines in the school. Myself and another student decided that we should collect all the water bottles students throw away in one week’s time to see how many were used.” With the help of students, Anna and her team collected almost 2000 bottles in one week.

Last year, Anna viewed a documentary in her environmental sciences class regarding the impact of plastic on the environment. “I was in shock that this was something that people didn’t talk about every day. I did more reading and research and then kept thinking about how I could bring it to my school.” She created a cause and began sharing it with students, teachers, and everyone interested in the topic. In a few weeks, Anna’s petition had amassed more than 4,000 signatures from people all over the world.

According to a National Geographic report, Americans drank 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water, or 222 bottles per person, in 2011. That’s the highest number of sales recorded in the U.S. for a 12-month period. Anna believes that the place to create change is in her local community. Her idea is straightforward: teach students in her high school about using reusable water bottles, give them hydration stations around campus, and make vending machines obsolete.

Anna Hankins

Anna Hankins hopes her campaign will educate high schools and colleges about plastic water bottle use.

This week, Anna is taking the 2000 bottles she collected from school trash bins to create a large display in the main entrance of her high school. “We want students to see all the waste that comes out of these vending machines.

The display will go up and we’ll make “take back the tap” posters that highlights the negative affects of plastic on the environment.” The support she’s received through communities on Causes has also helped secure a $1,000 grant from Architecture for Humanity.

She wants to use the money to buy incoming Freshman classes reusable bottles to create a strong foundation of awareness. Although, students are already creating the trend themselves. “We’ve had a lot of student support and a lot of students have come up to me to say. ‘Hey, we’ve stopped using one-use water bottles.’ Now it’s kind of trendy to bring a reusable water bottle to school!”

Elected officials as role models

While Anna wants to plant a seed of sustainability within her generation, she also realizes that there are people in power who can set a great example now. Recently, Anna launched a new petition asking Massachusett’s congressman Jim McGovern to stop using one-use water bottles in his office. In 2012, McGovern’s office spent an estimated $1600 on plastic water bottles and Congress spent a whopping $200,000 overall. Anna said, “We want public officials to join us in the movement. If we can start with our local officials, then why can’t it be everyone that’s in a postition of leadership. As a public official, they are the leaders of our future and our generation, and they need to take responsibility.”

Anna’s focus is sure to leave a lasting legacy at her high school. Next year, she’s heading off to college to become a hydrologist. She also has aspirations to start her own nonprofit focused on the world’s water supply. Presently, she hopes her strategy to combat vending machines at high schools, and to educate students and teachers about the positive role reusable water bottles and water stations can play in helping the environment, can be implemented everywhere. “We want to make a campaign that can be used at any high school or college, and students can follow the steps to see what we’ve done, and they can be successful. We’re really trying to start the ripple effect nationwide.”

People using Causes: they never fail to inspire us!

Check out how Anna is trying to get elected officials to join her Take Back The Tap movement. What are your thoughts about plastic bottle use? Tell us in the comments below!

  • Donna MacDonald

    to bad they don’t have a way to recycle these like metal and glass.

  • BJM2

    My daughter keeps telling me that I need to stop being opinionated when I keep telling everyone I know that they need to stop using plastic bottles and plastic bags. She says my grandkids don’t like hearing it. Well, I am going to tell her and my grandkids about Anna, because she understands that we need to address this problem now before it is too late. I am not trying to save this planet for me – I will be long gone, but I am trying to save it for future generations who have grown up in a world where it is all about convenience and not what is the right thing to do. I hope Anna’s mother is proud of her because I certainly would be!!!

    • Penguino

      Well said. It is important to spread the word because individual efforts won’t matter if others don’t follow. Your opinion is important to the future of your family. Keep up the good work BJM2!

  • Miss_Ann_thrope

    I hope those plastic bottles do not contain BPA’s

  • lemand

    Study the fluoride that is added to water. Can be very toxic when adding up all the products that also contain fluoride.

  • ecc

    Fountain water can be good. The only thing is it has to be clean. I remember when I was in school, water from the fountain smelled like chlorine.

    • citoyenmag

      I distinctly remember this from elementary. It was always so “weird.” Anyway, I don’t have to worry about that living in SF. We have some of the best water around.

    • Penguino

      Municipal water has far more regulations on it than bottled water and when sunlight and heat act on a plastic water bottle, the chemicals leach into the water. I’ll take my chances on the water fountain.

  • @LorrieLife

    There’s a “patch” of plastic bottles and other plastic junk in the ocean…the size of Texas! Birds are feeding plastic bits to their babies and they’re starving to death!
    Cities pay millions to clean tap water and it’s cleaner and healthier than bottled. (Most of which is either tap). Mountain spring water carries animal urine and fecal matter as well. Floride content is minimal and has done wonders for peoples teetth, so that argument is faulty. You get more floride in your system brushing your teeth!
    The worst bottled water offender is Evian, which was found to be full of bacteria. If desperate, I’ll grab a Smart Water and reuse the bottle until it’s too crumpled to use anymore.

    • Penguino

      There are actually 5 gyres of plastics in different oceans. Check out http://www.5gyres.org/ to find out more.

    • Shrimpboat70

      Just to let you know, Flouride is toxic to humans. It was originally used in industry to clean things.

  • Penguino

    Way to go Anna. Did you know that Americans put 60 million plastic bottles into landfills everyday?

    • joan

      maybe they need to go into the landfills and get them out. recycle.

  • Penguino

    Way to go Anna. Did you know that Americans put 60 million plastic bottles into landfills everyday?

  • realist

    plastic bottles can be recycled. That would be a better use. Due to a drop in funding from towns, PTAs, state government, and federal government coupled with higher expenses such as teacher salary and benefits, schools use vending machines as a means of raising funds for after school programs and trips. I prefer they sell water than sugary soda, as I would prefer they sold fruit versus cupcakes. But if the school needs to raise a specific amount of money to fund after school science programs, then vending machines selling what students will buy is Americana. Can the school work with suppliers to package them better, maybe..

    • Mary Lenahan

      Do the research about this before you make this statement. Plastic bottles are not recycled; they are upcycled. Plastic in plastic bottles cannot be used again to make new plastic bottles. They can be shredded and used to make recycled plastic decking and other similar products.Less than 30% of plastic bottles in the US are recycled (upcycled).

      • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

        I wonder why a recycling company pays me for plastic?

    • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

      Amen!!

  • Annie

    What an awesome story and student! I love when teens get involved with issues in their world!

  • joan

    They can be recycled.

    • Elza Papas

      Wonderful initiative Anna, lets hold the authorities accountable for fresh water in our taps and stop this bottled water madness! I live in Cape Town and we have lovely fresh tap water.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfie80 Alfred Brown

        Many many years ago, empty glass bottles of certain kinds, had a small deposit on them which was refundable. Could something similar be in place. I cannot see vending machines being removed, it is someones business. If they were removed from schools,you can bet that they will appear somewhere else.

  • joan

    They can be recycled.

    • Elza Papas

      Wonderful initiative Anna, lets hold the authorities accountable for fresh water in our taps and stop this bottled water madness! I live in Cape Town and we have lovely fresh tap water.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alfie80 Alfred Brown

        Many many years ago, empty glass bottles of certain kinds, had a small deposit on them which was refundable. Could something similar be in place. I cannot see vending machines being removed, it is someones business. If they were removed from schools,you can bet that they will appear somewhere else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheSurfLady Swim-without Sharks

    Anna’s cause is the topic of the film “Aqua Seafoam Shame.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheSurfLady Swim-without Sharks

    Anna’s cause is the topic of the film “Aqua Seafoam Shame.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/JeniferAlejo Jenifer Alejo

    I agree with this cause, I don’t however believe that only one person can not make a difference. I believe, it starts with one because we individually need to stand in our own integrity, regardless of what is going on around us. That integrity and commitment will absolutely have a ripple effect.

  • Shelley Kapach

    I don’t understand why the Americans don’t recycle their bottles like we do in Canada. No one throws their bottles away-that’s like tossing away money. Bottles are returned to a recycling depot where the deposit we were charged when purchasing the beverage is returned to us and the bottles are sent back to the bottling company and reused. Not rocket science but it sure helps the environment!

    • Chris

      Exactly! In US when I was a child, we used to love going around looking for bottles to return for the deposit money. Couldn’t believe people would toss so many of those.

      • Chris

        And I have a really great filter on my tap at home. Have been taking refilled water bottles to work for about 20 years. Water can taste fine but still have lots of harmful chemicals & minute heavy metals that build up in your body over time.

  • Nana

    Applause for you Anna. I also m a grandmother like BJM2. I also am rabid about recycling. My daughter and her daughter who is 17 save all their plastics so I. Can recycle them. However I. Wish I could get them to not buy them at all. It isn’t for us older people. It is for the younger ones to have a better world. Keep fighting Anna!

  • Nana

    Applause for you Anna. I also m a grandmother like BJM2. I also am rabid about recycling. My daughter and her daughter who is 17 save all their plastics so I. Can recycle them. However I. Wish I could get them to not buy them at all. It isn’t for us older people. It is for the younger ones to have a better world. Keep fighting Anna!

  • Andrea, Big Island Hawaii

    I have stopped buying all single serving beverages of any kind either plastic or glass. What a waste of resources. We are all so appalled at history when we read about whites killing the buffalo sometimes just for sport- but we don’t seem to recognize that this kind of consumption creates a widespread impact on the environment in so many ways.

  • suman singh

    i also stop plastic using

  • Steven

    Anna, It’s a wonderful thing your doing. It is really nice to see someone in your generation take notice and then do something about it. It gives me hope that there will be enough people who care to make a difference. Myself I don’t drink bottled water or water for that matter. I also recycle milk cartons, pop bottles, cans, paper, etc….. Keep up the good fight, I’ll be praying for you.

  • Steven

    Anna, It’s a wonderful thing your doing. It is really nice to see someone in your generation take notice and then do something about it. It gives me hope that there will be enough people who care to make a difference. Myself I don’t drink bottled water or water for that matter. I also recycle milk cartons, pop bottles, cans, paper, etc….. Keep up the good fight, I’ll be praying for you.

  • JBow

    The bottled water companies have us dangling on their puppet strings – just like all these corporate companies just out to line their pockets… What happened to water taps and fountains? Well done to this student – water is precious. Plastic is ending up on beaches and in the sea as sludge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAL9Xvrg3hI birds end up eating and dying a cruel painful death… not to mention the toxins in plastic we ingest!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Siddique.Sufiyan Siddiqui Mohammad Sufiyan

    Anna, we are with you and just do for nature!
    which feed us….

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobbie.henning1 Bobbie Horton Henning

    Way to go Anna. I’m so proud of you and being a parent/grandparent myself I wish more youth would get involved in making our schools, community, government and ultimately the world a better place. I am 100% behind you in all that you are accomplishing. Keep up the good work and know that every day 1 bottle at a time, 1 person at a time can make a huge difference. Blessings for a great year in 2013! oxo Bobbie :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobbie.henning1 Bobbie Horton Henning

    Way to go Anna. I’m so proud of you and being a parent/grandparent myself I wish more youth would get involved in making our schools, community, government and ultimately the world a better place. I am 100% behind you in all that you are accomplishing. Keep up the good work and know that every day 1 bottle at a time, 1 person at a time can make a huge difference. Blessings for a great year in 2013! oxo Bobbie :)

  • Lana

    Good job everyone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shirish-Patwa/100002684712670 Shirish Patwa

    I should congratulate the students who have shown the awareness against the use of plastic in our day-today life.We have been,knowingly or unknowingly,waving the web of plastic which will suffocate the entire life system on the mother Earth.Already this ‘non-degenerable’ waste has been causing havoc ,especially in India , most of the roads are littered with the plastic causing hazards to the health of people and giving headache to civic authorities.Let us pledge solemnly to shun plastic in our daily life as far as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/param.d.singh Param D Singh

    Anna and her friends are now in school – yet they are the future leaders of the world, and it’s heartening to see such awareness, concern and a willingness to do something about it at their young age. And that, while those in official position of current leadership – those whose responsibility it is now to safeguard the future for coming generations – are oblivious of what’s happening right under their “nose”! Can we not use the “Causes” platform to hasten the process of getting this (and similar) message(s) across to those in position of responsibility? I mean, yes, it takes time for things to happen – but this seems rather urgent! 2000 bottles in a week! Extrapolate that not only to the US but the rest of the world and see what we’re doing as humans!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sunohu Sandy UnoHu

    Great initiative! My concern is most public drinking fountains are not bottle refilling friendly. They must include a faucet that’s raised high enough to place bottles underneath easily to catch the water without struggling and spilling!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sunohu Sandy UnoHu

      222 bottles per person is a lot considering many like us have already quit using disposable bottles :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/sunohu Sandy UnoHu

      222 bottles per person is a lot considering that many, like me, have already quit using disposable bottles :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/sunohu Sandy UnoHu

    Great initiative! My concern is most public drinking fountains are not bottle refilling friendly. They must include a faucet that’s raised high enough to place bottles underneath easily to catch the water without struggling and spilling!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sunohu Sandy UnoHu

      222 bottles per person is a lot considering many like us have already quit using disposable bottles :(

  • Charles Kelley

    I would love to see someone with Anna’s drive start a petition in a parallel direction. Water bottles are a good place to start since they’re so unnecessary in a country with GREAT tapwater. The sweetened drink bottles are a much bigger challenge. I don’t know the deapth of the learning in Anna’s “environmental science” class. But I’d like to add something from the perspective of chemistry. PET plastic bottles are polyesters made from just two chemical components. Both of these components come from petroleum through a multi-step chemical process. This plastic (PET #1) and this plastic alone is truly recyclable—that is it can be returned to its two chemical complnents and remanufactured into NEW plastic bottles. This is not now being done! In the late 1990′s DuPont Chemical built a plant for more than 100M dollars to return used PET bottles to the two chemical components needed to make new bottles. Since no other plastic is a polyester, all other plastics could be easily removed and did not interfere in this process. Unfortunately, as the DuPont plant was being completed petroleum prices fell to the ridiculously low price of $10/barrel. So DuPont would lose money at that price and never opened the plant. Today anyone operating such a plant would make lots of money because oil is now $95/barrel. I would be the first person to sign a petition to have DuPont revisit this concept and complete that (or another) plant to carry out this process. This would truly make an impact on recycling in America. Since, after all, “reuse is better than recycling”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

      You would like to see someone with Anna’s drive start another petition? It’s just a petition. The money spent and work involved goes to others. Use recycling. That’s already been established. Not everyone uses it, but not every one will use any idea. Getting signatures is the easiest part. There are always those who express their self-righteous opinion on what others should do. A petition? If you would really like to see it, do it yourself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anna.hankins.12 Anna Hankins

      Reducing is better than both reusing and recycling.

  • Zainab

    Inspiring..

  • Zainab

    Inspiring..

  • Sandy Welter, Lakewood Ohio

    Good for Anna. Our mother earth can use more advocates like her. I use a filtered pitcher and my own multi-usable cups. It is so easy and there is nothing to throw away.

  • CWB

    You go girl. I hope you get thousands involved in this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

      Thousands will never be involved. They will only sign a petition, trying to force others to spend the money and do the work.

  • CWB

    You go girl. I hope you get thousands involved in this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

      Thousands will never be involved. They will only sign a petition, trying to force others to spend the money and do the work.

  • Subramani PK

    The people in position know the effect of plastic but unfortunately the business lobby is so powerful they dare not raise their voice to ban or change. However the job has to be done by children & youth as rightly started by Anna. Let this awareness be spread by all of us in whatever way we can. Congratulations to Anna & all the very best for continuing her effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/duane.nicholas Duane E. Nicholas

    Keep up the great work Anna!

  • http://www.facebook.com/duane.nicholas Duane E. Nicholas

    Keep up the great work Anna!

  • Bibekananda Choudhury

    I have written several articles in widely circulated dailies, popular magazines, children’s magazines and also in house journals about the bourgeoning problem of using plastic articles, especially those avoidable plastic bags by making easily usable bags made out of old clothings especially pants,

  • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

    Many people already recycle, including me. I also refill bottles at home. Refilling bottles from public refil stations or fountains is dirty and dangerous. Setting this idea in motion will be costly. Who will pay for it? Selling bottled water is someone’s else’s livelihood. Not everyone would use your idea, just as not everyone recycles. The idea is good. Do it yourself. Stop trying to control and change others. Don’t become one of those people who try to force others into doing your will thru petitions. It’s a selfish and self entered way to gain recognition. Anyone can come up with a cause. Getting signatures is easy. Doing something about a real issue is heroic.

  • Linda in Potosi, MO

    I agree that we need to quit drinking bottled water. I recycle everything I can: plastic bags, glass, metal, paper, cardboard, plastic. We need to use tap water.

  • Kim

    We need to recycle more and stop using and producing throw away products which are just jamming up our waterways and our landfills. This is becoming a very serious problem.

  • Kim

    We need to recycle more and stop using and producing throw away products which are just jamming up our waterways and our landfills. This is becoming a very serious problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ludibob Bob Parfitt

    Excellent Anna. Keep it going after the petition. In Europe we are just starting the battle.

  • Shrimpboat70

    Now if we can only get the cruise ships to recycle their plastic bottles, that would also save our oceans and its inhabitants.

  • Shrimpboat70

    Now if we can only get the cruise ships to recycle their plastic bottles, that would also save our oceans and its inhabitants.

  • Debra Cirotti

    GREAT. IDEA! I’M ALWAYS UNWITTINGLY YHROWING OUT (!) PLASTIC BOTTLES! N.G. i admit it mistakes happen)

  • Penguino

    Well said. It is important to spread the word because individual efforts won’t matter if others don’t follow. Your opinion is important to the future of your family. Keep up the good work BJM2!

  • http://www.facebook.com/donna.l.seale Donna L. Seale

    Amen!!

  • Chris

    And I have a really great filter on my tap at home. Have been taking refilled water bottles to work for about 20 years. Water can taste fine but still have lots of harmful chemicals & minute heavy metals that build up in your body over time.

  • Cassi

    I totally agree with you…i’m 100% for changing the community but I do it my own way… I do think more people should Recycle tho. i’m one of THOSE types… my friends call me a tree hugger…. I must admit! I love the earth and keeping it clean!!! <3 but i'm not really a TREE HUGGER I just like keeping the earth clean and my lungs healthy and not full of polution, so i'd like to hear your opinion on how I can help my school….