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Students go green with plastic bottles

February 16, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- It could be described as the ultimate recycling project, taking a product that usually harms the environment and using it instead for nature's benefit.

A James Buchanan High School class is collecting 2,000 plastic bottles to do just that. The students hope to build a greenhouse out of 2-liter bottles; construction is expected to begin this spring.

Seth Gilbert, a senior, summed up his classmates' sentiments when he talked about what they're most looking forward to after months of collecting bottles.

"I just want to build it," he said.

The computer-aided design class started learning about eco-friendly projects in the fall. Some of the students found Internet references to a method of building a greenhouse in which bamboo rods are inserted through stacked soda bottles.

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Thus started the task of collecting bags and bags of green and clear bottles.

The students counted 577 bottles prior to Carol Shaw's Monday morning donation. The McConnellsburg, Pa., woman left three oversized trash bags in the school lobby.

"I think they're great. They're saving the environment," said Shaw, who has been saving bottles for the students since Christmas.

The number of bottles arriving at the school grew exponentially after a brief description of the project ran in a weekly shopper's guide. Otherwise, students like senior Brandon Graham have relied on donations from family and friends.

"They drink a lot of soda," Brandon said with a laugh.

"I didn't think we'd get so many so soon," said Travis Varner, a senior who spends some of his afternoons stacking the bottles in a display case.

The size of the greenhouse will depend on what supporting materials can be found by the class.

"We've got to get some wood first, and then we're going to start our structure," said Nathaniel Witter, a junior.

Construction could take less than two weeks, he said.

The students identified their biggest remaining challenges as obtaining enough bottles and designing a greenhouse that can withstand wind. They hope to give the greenhouse to the horticulture department.

The bottles will allow light to enter the greenhouse, while also trapping moisture inside, students said.

Reno Wilson, a senior, said the past few months' efforts have helped him develop better environmental awareness.

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