Top right: TAP Bottles group at May 2012 BBQ Against Bottles fundraiser. (L-R) Sydney MacLennan, Mariah Collins, Veronica Logelin, Leighton Balagno (no longer a member), Cheyenne Moorhouse, Emily Milne, Aya Anholt, Sarah Duggan (missing Taylor Sacre)
Bottom left: TAP Bottles group with water bottle refill station and fountain at Carson Graham School/Confederation Field in January 2015 (L-R) Cheyenne Moorhouse, Sarah Duggan, Sydney MacLennan, Taylor Sacre, Mariah Collins (missing: Emily Milne, Aya Anholt and Veronica Logelin)

 

You could see the panic on their faces, they now say. To further their goal of eliminating plastic bottles from their school, the young women from Together Against Plastic Bottles (TAP Bottles) were about to present their plan to install a water bottle refill station at their high school to the North Vancouver City Council. They had been putting the final touches on their presentation while awaiting their scheduled moment to present.

Suddenly, one of them received a text: their names had just been called in council chambers—they had missed their time slot. Somehow, they had been given an incorrect time.

The group of close to a dozen young women from Carson Graham Secondary School had spent the better part of a year preparing for this presentation. They had matched their idea—first conceived when the group took part in Capilano University’s Global Stewardship Change Pilotz program—to the city’s sustainability goals and knew they had a strong pitch.

“We were pretty confident about what we had to say,” says TAP Bottles member Sarah Duggan. To miss the opportunity for a grant from the City to help fulfill their vision was a heavy disappointment.

However, a new time slot was quickly arranged, allowing the group to present to council—but not without a serious case of nerves, by this point. “You can see it on the taped meeting,” says TAP Bottles member Mariah Collins. “We’re trying not to look like we’re freaking out!”

As the girls then sat down, a council member immediately said, “I think we should give them the money.”

“All of us just stared at each other,” says TAP Bottles member Cheyenne Moorehouse. “We were like, ‘Holy, what just happened?’”

A dream come true

The young women left that meeting with the $8,500 grant that would complete the $15,000 needed to fulfill their vision of installing an outdoor water bottle refill station at Carson Graham Secondary’s Confederation Field.

“It was one of the most empowering moments of our lives,” says Cheyenne. “Our dream was coming true.”

Just this past January, TAP Bottles finally saw their dream completed when the City installed TAP Bottles’ chosen water bottle refill stations at Confederation Field. It had been a four-year journey to complete a vision that was first honed in the Global Stewardship program’s Justice High and Change Pilotz program.

Pursuing a passion

In 2011, a group of Carson Graham Secondary students decided they wanted to follow the example of Jennifer Hao, a young woman from Burnaby who decided to eliminate plastic bottles from her high school. Since Vancouver has what is considered the best drinking water in the world, and because plastic is so damaging to both the environment and to physical health, the young women thought this a worthwhile goal.

At the urging of their school counsellor, the group attended Justice High, where they learned about sustainability and ways to get involved in their community. Four of the group members then attended Cap U’s Change Pilotz, where they formed the mission statement for TAP Bottles and planned a presentation.

The four young women presented their idea in a Dragon’s Den-style competition called Eagle’s Nest, and were shocked to be awarded $1,000 in CIDA funding to get the ball rolling on their idea. “We were only 15 at the time,” says Cheyenne.

“It felt pretty good,” chimes in Sarah. “Someone thinks that what we’re doing is important enough to give us money. ‘Here, you can do it—go!’” she laughs.

Growing momentum

The group came back from the event with high spirits and lots of ideas to raise the remaining money needed for their water bottle refill station. In May 2012, they held a barbecue to raise funds. More than 300 people—including North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto—attended and the group raised a significant amount of money. Additional fundraisers led them to the point where, by the time the group found themselves standing before the North Vancouver City Council, they had already raised $6,300.

The girls found themselves caught up in a momentum that they now look back and marvel at. The same year saw them presenting their vision at EPIC: Vancouver’s Sustainable Living Expo, where they received warmth and support from many people, including one of the principals behind SodaStream.

“That’s pretty much how I would describe this whole project,” says Cheyenne. “It’s all been, ‘Oh my god, how did we do this?’” It had become such a part of their lives to be constantly giving presentations and fundraising, the girls didn’t realize how exceptional they were. “We would tell other people about it, and they would say, “Wow, you’re doing all that?’”

Changing their community

Over the course of the past four years, pursuing this passion has taught the group invaluable skills. “We’ve really grown into ‘business owners,’” says Cheyenne, making air quotes around the word.

On a certain level, it’s true. These teenagers list out all the tools they’ve gained: public speaking, time management, working as a team, producing and marketing items, event-planning, proposal-writing, cover letters, collaborating with companies, budgeting, invoicing, filing tax returns—all skills needed to run a successful business.

“It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but looking back at it, it’s really impressive what we’ve accomplished,” says Sarah. “It’s been really empowering.”

And, these women are all pursuing their vision for global justice with higher education. Today, Sarah is taking International Studies at SFU with a focus on economic and environmental sustainability. Mariah is in Media Studies at UBC, and Cheyenne will be attending Capilano University this year with a goal to become a nurse.

The young women hope to continue presenting what they have accomplished to schools, inspiring other young people that they really can change the world. TAP Bottles recently supported a petition to ban bottled water in the city of Vancouver, something San Francisco has already done.

Today, Carson Graham Secondary; tomorrow, the world.

Submitted by Marketing & Communications

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