Parents and kids shuffled into West Tisbury School on Friday night, where smells of buttery popcorn and fresh coffee filled the air. Student-made posters lined the walls, and kids with clipboards canvased for signatures as people arrived. The parent-organized Zero Waste Movie Night was underway.
The school already had a Zero Waste initiative in place, movie night organizer Moira Silva explained, so the idea to incorporate that with a movie night was something everyone was excited to get behind. “It’s a way to build community,” Silva said, “and have people feel welcome … as well as build the idea of living a zero-waste lifestyle.”
The initiative was on full display at the event, with students talking to parents and other kids about their environmental concerns, and information booths and pamphlets were available for more information. The Food Truck prepared grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and Chilmark Coffee was there with free coffee. Parents were asked to bring their own cups and plates from home for the reduced-priced food and drinks offered as a way to reduce waste, and if they forgot them at home, nonpaper plates and bowls were provided for $1.
Shane True, a passionate sixth grader, walked around the cafeteria with his clipboard as people ate. His class started Safe Sea MV, an initiative to introduce an environmental law in West Tisbury that would prohibit anyone from intentionally releasing helium or lighter-than-air balloons in the town of West Tisbury.
Sixth grade science teacher Zoe Turcotte said her class started discussing the 30 percent tax on solar panels, which led to discussing more environmental issues, like elephant poaching and trash. “The students were so engaged that basically I said, If you guys want to really work on this, let’s work on this. I invited them to voluntarily come into lunch the next day while I talked on the phone with the West Tisbury town administrator, and over half of the sixth grade students showed up. We found out about how to do the process of writing a bylaw. I made a draft that night,” said Ms. Turcotte, “and in science class we debated what the wording should be, what the fines should be, what the exceptions should be, and from there we created the petition.
“This would be an historic move,” Turcotte added, “because only three other places in Massachusetts have laws like this, one being Nantucket. We are really hopeful that we will be the fourth town in Massachusetts to make a law.”
“It’s a big problem,” Shane said. “I want to spread the word to everyone, and I eventually want to get the law to the whole island.” Shane collected three clipboards full of signatures for the class’s petition.
The highlight of the evening, though, was Dylan D’Haeze, presenting his film “Everything Connects.” “Everything Connects” is the 14-year-old filmmaker’s third documentary — in the span of one year. His first film, “Plastic Is Forever” began as a school project, but peers quickly suggested he enter it in film festivals. “Plastic Is Forever,” which illustrates what happens when you throw plastic away, has won multiple awards, including the Environment Award at the International Ocean Film Festival in San Francisco, and Best Children’s Film in the International Wildlife Film Festival.
“Everything Connects,” which focuses on zero waste and sustainability, features the Island Grown Initiative of Martha’s Vineyard, so the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival reached out to Dylan to see if he’d like to come to the Island.
Dylan, along with his mother Dawn, kicked off his East Coast “Everything Connects” film screenings at the West Tisbury School for Zero Waste Movie Night. The jet-lagged pair flew in from their West Coast home in Washington for the school’s event, and will have more screenings in Cape Cod and Annapolis, Md.
Fresh popcorn popped to refill the home-brought cups, and kids and parents settled in for the half-hour-long documentary. With a full audience — and even people spilling out into the hallway — Dylan premiered his film for the eco-friendly school.
Dylan’s website, kidscansavetheplanet.com, has the tagline “Changing the world, one kid at a time …” Moira Silva and other parents organized the Zero Waste Movie Night with the same thought in mind. “It helps give families a little bit of inspiration,” Silva said. “Even if that means just picking up one piece of trash.”