CRANFORD, NJ- Cranford High School senior Isabella Soto recently completed her Girl Scouts Gold Award project, which consisted of placing environmentally friendly water fountains into Bloomingdale Avenue Elementary School.

With the help of Bloomingdale Avenue School principal Ms. Murphy, Girl Scout Gold Award Advisor Kristen Santos, PTA Board Member Kristen Ferrara, and PTA President Randy Geis, Stoto taught young students about the importance of water conservation.

More than $600 was raised through local Girl Scout Troops in Cranford, who donated a portion of their sales from selling cookies toward the implementation of new fountains. These water fountains allow for the water to be dispensed directly into a reusable water bottle, thus limiting the amount of plastic bottles that will be placed into the environment. 

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The detrimental impacts that simple items like plastic bottles have on our planet are oft-neglected issues that Stoto wished to bring to attention in younger children, she said.

“The driving purpose behind my project was to teach younger students and younger Girl Scout troops about water conservation and plastic pollution,” Soto said. “I showed them poorer regions of the world, such as some countries in Africa, where they are not as fortunate as we are to have access to clean water. Some people have to walk miles for a drop of water, while it is simply something that many of us take for granted.”

Soto’s idea was inspired by her AP Environmental Science teacher, Greg Campbell, she said.

“Though I have always had a passion for environmental issues, my AP Environmental Science teacher at the high school last year made me more fully aware of the direct and indirect consequences that just one plastic water bottle can have on the environment,” Soto said. “The detriments are rarely thought about when we drink out of a water bottle, and I wanted to make it become almost subconscious for students to use reusable bottles.”

A key component of the Girl Scout Gold Award project is that it must have a lasting impact upon the community on a whole. Soto hopes to see a long-term change in the physical and environmental health in Cranford schools.

“The water itself is safer, as the filtration system in the fountain removes lead and other toxins, which already has a lasting impact upon the health of our young students,” Soto said. “I also have the hope that less kids will be using plastic water bottles in general, thus ideally bringing down the amount of litter on school grounds as a result.”

The fountains have a feature that displays how many water bottles are being saved by using the refill, which could eventually provide some numbers as to how large of an impact this is having.

Other scouting projects are currently ongoing at the high school, the majority of them being completed by Boy Scouts. Stoto is the only current Girl Scout receiving the Gold Award.

Kat Ruane is a high school student participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Cranford.