Fourteen students at South Allegheny Elementary School in Port Vue are doing their best to reduce the school's carbon footprint to help preserve Arctic ice polar bear habitat.
On Friday, a sixth-grade all-girl volunteer team that calls itself "Ice, Ice Savers" distributed 750 reusable plastic water bottles to school students and staff. The bottles have an image of a polar bear and the saying, "One Small Change: Polar Bears Saved."
The idea is to ensure that people use fewer disposable water bottles, said sixth-graders Kennedy Lawson of Port Vue and Mackenzie Duval of Liberty.
To raise money to buy the dark blue, reusable bottles, the team sold dark blue, light blue and white rubber bracelets at school stamped with the words, "Care About the Bear."
In teacher David Hoffman's classroom Friday morning, sixth-graders Emily Atkins and Madeline Klein gave a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation about polar bears and the importance of recycling and reducing carbon emissions before they distributed the bottles. Other team members gave the presentation in other classrooms.
According to the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research organization, most bottled water is sold in containers made of polyethylene terephthalate.
The production of every ton of that plastic produces about 3 tons of carbon dioxide, according to the institute's website, while the manufacturing of water bottles created more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2006 alone.
Members of "Ice, Ice Savers" do projects to help the environment throughout the school year, said Jenna Whitney, sixth-grade science teacher at South Allegheny Elementary and team sponsor.
Earlier this year, the team collected 2,101 plastic bags to recycle and filled 17 one-gallon milk jugs, a five-gallon paint jug and two large bags with pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, which collects them.
In 2011, a team of three girls at South Allegheny High School under Mrs. Whitney's direction were one of two teams nationwide to win the grand prize in the Project Polar Bear contest sponsored by Polar Bears International. The prize was a trip to San Diego for an award presentation and to Churchill, Canada, to see polar bears.
"We're really trying our hardest to get people to know what's going on with the polar bears," Madeline said. "I want my grandkids to see polar bears."
Polar bears hunt for seals, one of their main food sources, from the ice, Madeline and Emily noted.
According to the Polar Bears International website, Arctic sea ice shrank 18 percent more in 2012 than during any previous year, and 2012 was one of the warmest years in recorded history in the United States, with heat records set in 34 states.
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.