In November 2013, a group from Shallowford and Trinity Presbyterian Churches spent nearly a week at St. Francois. Early in our visit, we became acutely aware of, and concerned by, the number of plastic water bottles we were going through every day. We made a decision to take them all home with us, crushed and packed into now-empty duffel bags, to be recycled. The total number of plastic bottles generated by our group of 10 people staying at St. Francois for only six nights — nearly 250.
On that same trip, a tour of the new Wesleyan guest quarters planted a seed –we noticed a simple water cooler (the type that dispenses water from a 5-gallon refillable plastic bottle) in use. We learned that there was a water treatment facility nearby in Anse-a-Galets that refilled these bottles.
On a return trip this April, a small group from Trinity spent our first night in Port-au-Prince. Before going to the ferry the following morning, we stopped at Valerio Canez and purchased a water cooler like the one we had seen in use at the Wesleyan guest quarters. The cooler was in its original packaging and safely made the trip over to LaGonave with our luggage (and us!).
Cost of the water cooler — about $150 US.
Cost of each 5-gallon bottle — about $4.
Cost to refill a 5-gallon bottle with good-tasting, filtered and treated water at the treatment plant in Anse-a-Galets — $1 US.
In anticipation of the purchase, we had each packed a Nalgene or similar bottle. At the end of our six-night stay, we had only used about a dozen individual plastic water bottles. This water cooler will be a significant savings for St. Francois considering the total number of people who stay there over the course of a year, as well as a huge reduction in the plastic waste generated. The water cooler we purchased is in the dining hall of the rectory building. It was so well-received that Pere Vil asked if we would consider buying two more, one for the building where Partnership groups stay, and one for the teachers’ office. We readily agreed!
Sometimes progress comes in small steps and the opportunities are right before our eyes.