Our Water Our Future

Tignish Elementary School students Malcolm Costain and Bentley Ellsworth get ready to cut the ribbon on the school’s newly installed water dispenser during the official launch of Our Water - Our Future, a community co-operative project to reduce, replace and eliminate single-use plastic water bottles in Tignish, on Dec. 19. The committee of the project is hoping to install similar water dispensers in high traffic areas throughout the town. Melissa Heald photo

Tignish is hoping to reduce the use of plastic water bottles in its community with a new initiative.

The official launch for Our Water - Our Future, a community co-operative project, kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Tignish Elementary School on Dec. 19 for the school’s newly installed water dispenser.

“This will be a step in the direction of addressing plastic in our community,” said Karen Gaudet-Gavin, a board member of the Tignish Credit Union and the emcee for the launch. “The government has eliminated the use of plastic bags and hopefully this project will further reduce plastic in our environment.”

The chair of the project committee, Cletus Dunn, also sits on the board of the Tignish Credit Union. Mr Dunn recently attended a week’s long course on cooperatives at St Mary’s University in Halifax.

“The challenge on the last day was to go back to your community to see if you can do a cooperative project that addresses the needs of the community,” explained Mr Dunn. “I came back and we talked about the fisheries and the plastic in the water.”

Mr Dunn was then given the green light to form a committee which is composed of representatives from the Town of Tignish, Royal Star Fisheries, Tignish Credit Union, Tignish Co-op, Tignish Elementary School and the Tignish Watershed Management Group. Other groups that make up the partners for this project include Tignish Initiatives, Tignish Credit Union Arena, Tignish Medical Centre, Tignish Seniors Home and the Tignish Royal Canadian Legion.

“We did presentations to 10 different organizations in the community, like the legion and the medical centre, and we got support everywhere,” said Mr Dunn. “Then we asked them to make some commitments, either installing a water filling system, or providing money so someone else could do it.”

The committee is looking to install water dispensers throughout the town. These water dispensers come with both a place for people to fill reusable water bottles and a drinking fountain. The dispensers are also equipped with counters that records the number of plastic water bottles that have been saved from being used.

“We will be able to report back the number of bottles saved every couple of months,” said Mr Dunn. “After a year we will know the impact this has had.”

Mr Dunn said the town has agreed to install a water dispenser in Bicentennial Park this summer, the Tignish legion is looking to install one at their ballfield and the arena is considering installing one as well.

“Anywhere that’s a high traffic area,” he said.

“It didn’t take long for him to convince me that this would be a worth well project for us,” said Mike Ellsworth, the principal for Tignish Elementary School, about when Mr Dunn approached him about the project. “Whenever we can have hands on learning we what to take advantage of that and I saw there’s a lot of possibilities here with this project.”

The Grade 6 class came up with the name for the committee’s initiative - Our Water - Our Future. The Grade 4/5 researched facts about single use plastics, how they can impact the environment and created a slide show presentation they shared with the other grades at the school. The Grade 4/5 students were also at the launch to cut the ribbon on the brand new water dispenser just installed at the school last Monday.

Tignish mayor Allan McInnis shared with the students how things were like when he was their age.

“We didn’t think the environment would ever be hurt,” the mayor told the students. “I came from a fishing family. We charged our oil in our boats, we would fire the oil into the harbour and let the tide take it away. A terrible, a terrible thing, wasn’t it?”

But the mayor said there has been a shift in attitudes when it comes to the environment.

“This is what we need,” he said. “We need young people like you to go home and speak to your parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and talk about the environment, because if we don’t do something about the environment now, when you guys are my age we will be so far behind that we will never correct it.”

Royal Star Fisheries already knows the benefits of having one these water dispensers after they installed one at their plant back in May.

Kenneth LeClair, a Royal Star Fisheries board of director, told the students it was costing the company roughly $8,000 a year for the business to purchase bottle water for their employees prior to installing their water dispenser.

“Right now, our counter is up to 21,000 bottles,” he said. “It’s making a big difference at our plant and everyone is enjoying it.”

While many students already bring their own reusable water bottle to school, before the water dispenser was installed, if they wanted their bottles refilled it had to be done in the school’s kitchen.

Now students can refill their bottles quicker, easier and in a unique way, said Mr Ellsworth.

“It’s a lot more efficient for them to be able to go and fill up their water bottles with some nice, cold, fresh water,” he said.

The counter on the water dispenser showed since it was installed on Dec. 16 until the official launch of the Our World Our Future project on Dec. 19 that the school had already eliminated using over 400 plastic water bottles.

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