Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

AHA’s Plastic Bottle Ban Is Angelic Inspiration for Newark School

Demarest, NJ: After they discovered an article about the successful Kick the Water Bottle campaign at the Academy of the Holy Angels, members of Saint Benedict Preparatory School’s student sustainability team were eager to learn more. Students from both schools recently convened at Holy Angels to discuss the progress of the student-led campaign from its inception at a 2016 retreat in West Virginia to AHA’s September 2017 ban on the sale of single-use plastic water bottles.

Angels Katarina Katzarov, Elena Pulanco, Samantha Sivulka, and Angela Romanos and AHA Director of Mission and Ministry Joan Connelly provided details of the program’s progress for SBP’s Green Bees, including Sterling Stokes, Antony Le, Joshua Viveros, Princeton Addo, Matthew Meles, and Sergio Almeida. The boys were accompanied by Noreen Connolly and Stephanie Kranz, staff members at SBP.

The girls explained that they launched Kick the Water Bottle after a summer 2016 trip to Nazareth Farm, where leaders emphasize a simple, eco-friendly lifestyle that includes community service and the conservation of natural resources. When they returned home from the farm, Pulanco, Romanos, Sivulka, and Lisa Harootunian, who has since graduated and was not present at the meeting, were inspired to take action at their school. Additional Angels, including Katzarov, will carry the program into the future.

Romanos told the visitors there was some resistance to the proposal within the school, but she and her friends persisted. Sivulka noted that she presented an economic argument for the ban, demonstrating how much money students could save by using one of the school-approved clear, refillable plastic water bottles.

The girls also told their visitors about the concerns that stemmed from the profits associated with the sale of water at the school. One of those issues involved the contract with the Academy’s food service provider. Joan Connelly reported that AHA President Melinda Hanlon was able to provide support for the girls’ cause and worked to negotiate an acceptable agreement with the vendor.

Connelly quickly added that the Green Bees would need adult support within their school to further their cause. She explained that much of the AHA community was receptive to the ban, since AHA’s founders and sponsors, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, are committed to ensuring that people around the world have ready access to clean, potable water. She also pointed out that the girls’ effort was a direct response to Pope Francis’ challenge to be caretakers of creation.

“A lot of people are on our side,” Noreen Connolly responded. The Green Bees noted that SBP Headmaster Father Edwin D. Leahy, supports their effort.

Romanos told the boys that some people were concerned about the safety and the taste of the water available from the school’s drinking fountains. She explained that the water fountains provide filtered water and a sensor that allows users to easily refill water bottles. During an AHA Awareness Day presentation, the Kick the Water Bottle leaders ran a water taste test that included water from the school’s drinking fountains. The results showed that no one could discern the difference between bottled water and the water available at the school’s fountains.

The girls also noted that Awareness Day allowed them to address a small group of students and interact with them to effectively respond to their questions and concerns.

Asked how AHA had purchased these fountains, Joan Connelly explained that the Academy received a grant, and later received additional fountains as a gift in honor of a former AHA president.

The Angels said they spread their message to the school community by requesting a brief time slot at the quarterly assemblies. They presented a video to the entire student body and created a sculpture from plastic bottles. Pulanco explained that the idea was to allow students to visualize the waste associated with single-use plastic bottles. Katzarov was instrumental in creating the plastic Christmas tree from nearly 500 bottles that were collected in a four-day period.

The girls were clear that their message was not always popular, and their methods were not always successful. At one point, the Angels decided to run a video competition to support their campaign, but received very few entries. They later realized that the deadline for entries had coincided with midterms.

While she said that some have criticized the fact that the school sells other beverages in plastic bottles, Romanos noted that the current ban is a beginning, and is an important step toward saving the earth.

Sivulka added that one of the group’s more successful efforts was a sale on reusable water bottles that feature the school logo. The bottles sold out quickly. Now the school gives the reusable bottles to incoming freshmen. The Angels noted that the incoming students readily accept the plastic water bottle ban as part of the Academy’s overall policies.

The ban also prevents AHA from purchasing single-use plastic water bottles with school funds.

“Two million people die each year due to diseases carried through contaminated water,” Connelly noted when the ban was announced. “The quest for clean water consumes the time, energy, and resources of many of the world’s poorest people. Children and women spend time and energy searching for and carrying water rather than going to school and participating in the community. Water is becoming big business in the developing world, as entrepreneurs seek ways to privatize already limited water supplies.”

Water was a critical issue for AHA Foundress Sister Nonna Dunphy. When she purchased the Academy’s first campus in Fort Lee, there was no municipal water supply. During times when there was not enough rainfall, the sisters were obligated to send a mule-drawn wagon to Edgewater, where they paid up to $5 a barrel for water. After S. Nonna prayed to Moses for help, a spring was struck on the school property.

Connelly pointed out that, while some plastic bottles are recycled, many end up in the trash, and others are down-cycled, which means the products made from those bottles eventually break down and then end up in the trash.

AHA and SBP are already proving that this current reality need not be the future.

The Angels have been encouraged to create a “how-to” video to share the basics of the Kick the Water Bottle campaign with anyone who can access YouTube.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

Academy of the Holy Angels

315 Hillside Avenue Contact Us & Driving Directions

Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

Contact Us & Driving Directions

Copyright 2017. Academy of the Holy Angels. Privacy Policy.