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!