The Wood River High School W.A.T.E.R. Club received a standing ovation in Hailey City Hall on Monday night for a presentation outlining strategies to curtail single-use plastics.
At the heart of the W.A.T.E.R.—We Appreciate The Earth’s Resources—Club proposal was a draft ordinance that, if adopted by the City Council, would eliminate single-use plastics at special events on Hailey city property.
Under the ordinance, future applicants for special-event permits would need to submit plans detailing their utensil and packaging materials and list steps they’d take to reduce energy and water consumption. Vendors would also be encouraged to sell regionally produced goods, according to the W.A.T.E.R. Club.
One related concept that students pitched on Monday was implementing a reusable water bar at popular outdoor events like the Summer’s End Music Festival.
“We’d ask Hailey to purchase a water bar for city events, which could remove the burden of [event planners] having to buy and transport water,” freshman Hazel Ludwig said.
The W.A.T.E.R. Club has a long history of promoting environmentally friendly lifestyle and shopping habits among fellow students. In 2015 and 2016, the group successfully installed hydration stations in Wood River High School to promote the use of refillable water bottles, and, in 2017, hosted a “trashion show” featuring clothes made of nonrecyclable material.
Now, the group is looking beyond school hallways for support. Ludwig said that during the ordinance planning phase, club members met with local business owners to find out how the legislation would affect them.
“Since our project is driven by community support, we wanted to make sure their opinions were considered,” she said. “We dis-
cussed alternatives to single-use plastics—compostable, reusable and rental products—and how they could transition to those.”
Senior Sofia Peller said the club’s idea of implementing an ordinance to scale down the use of disposable plastics came about in fall 2019, after the group took a private tour of the Blaine County Recycle Center.
“We learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about what can and can’t be recycled locally, and that a lot of what ends up in the facility is contaminated,” Peller said. “We realized recycling isn’t really enough—the use and production of single-use plastics had to be stopped.”
In 2015, Ketchum passed a resolution prohibiting the use of single-use plastics at city events.
“We used Ketchum as a starting point for our project, and built on that with feedback we got from [Hailey] City Attorney Chris Simms,” Peller said.
The students’ proposed ordinance will go before the City Council on Monday, March 9, for its first public hearing and is expected to proceed through three readings. According to teacher and club sponsor Erika Greenberg, the hope is for the ordinance to go into effect on Earth Day.
Hailey Mayor Martha Burke offered up words of encouragement to the high-schoolers after their presentation.
“I am so in favor of what you’ve done. We thank you, we celebrate you,” she said.