Back2Tap (Re)Fills a Need

Green community movement in Chatham goes national.

Chatham Borough and Chatham Township are cleaner and greener today thanks to four determined women who had enough of trashcans overflowing with plastic water bottles and other plastic litter in the towns’ parks and fields.

Recycling efforts had proved largely ineffective, so Mary Lonergan along with neighbors Lydia Chambers, Ellen Blazoski, and Ann Whitman decided to do something about it. “When I learned that only 20 percent of all plastic bottles were being recycled, and that there is a tremendous waste of oil and water associated with making and shipping disposable plastic bottles, we decided to act,” says Lonergan.

The result is Back2Tap, a grassroots movement founded in the fall of 2007 that encourages people to drink from reusable bottles instead of disposable plastics when on the go. “Better to filter your tap water at home, school, or work and fill a reusable bottle than to continue using disposable plastic bottles,” Lonergan says. “The average American uses 218 disposable plastic bottles of water every year, a ridiculous waste of resources.”

After researching alternatives, they learned about stainless steel bottles and hit upon holding a fundraiser at schools across town. Money raised by the sale of the reusable bottles (imprinted with the schools’ logos or names) has been used to purchase bottle-less water coolers, filters, and pitchers in some of the schools.
“A key part of our effort is education,” says Chambers. “We provide many free education tools online at back2tap.com, including a nine-minute video made for students on the lifecycle of a plastic water bottle.”

Inspired by their community’s response, in 2008 the group rolled out a full-time online for-profit green business that donates 5 percent of its profit to providing clean water around the world. In addition to customized stainless steel bottles and free educational materials, Back2Tap offers reusable sandwich wraps and snack pouches for a completely litter-less lunch. They’ve since gone national, and even international; the Ontario Ministry of Education has incorporated the group’s online education tools in their e-learning program. For its efforts, Back2Tap recently won an honorable mention in the New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards.

“For the past decade, recycling has been the focus of the environmental movement,” says Lonergan. “Now we better understand that reusing really is the better way and will be the new focus for years to come.

Bruce W. Fraser is a New York-based financial writer.

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