Staff at Capt. Albert Stevens School in Belfast have been busy working to reduce plastics use in the cafeteria, and promoting the idea of "refuse" (to use plastics), reduce, reuse and recycle in the community. In celebration of their accomplishments and of World Oceans Day, students marched in a parade June 8.

World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future, according to its website, bringing attention to environmental hazards and inspiring more involvement in conservation.

Belfast REFUSE Reduce Reuse Recycle — or BRRRR — is a group of CASS students from third to fifth grades who volunteer during lunchtimes all year to work on raising awareness about plastic pollution.

BRRRR group coordinator Tish Manning said last year the group's major accomplishment was not using plastic bags and reusing flatware.

This year's biggest achievement, she said, was convincing Regional School Unit 71 Director of Nutrition Perley Martin to support the initiative to take all straws out of the district.

"We have to get permission from him for any changes we suggest," Manning said, "so we have targeted issues, such as switching to metal silverware, not providing straws, switching from plastic to wax baggies, and presented him with reasons why these changes should be made.

"I do the research and teach the kids, then the kids do the presentations, persuasive speeches, to Perley," she said.

According to Manning, the group has also designed and created a 100-percent cotton shopping bag for reuse with assistance from a local screen printer, which are available at the school office and Jack's Grocery in Belfast.

At the start of the school day, she said, "They make frequent morning announcements about plastic facts and ways to help to educate the entire student body."

BRRRR kids are also starting to reach beyond their school and city. The group made a video that was shown at the Sears Island Outreach Science Squad program to families, Manning said.

Before the parade, a  presentation was shown noting that since beginning their campaign, 1,000 pounds of paper had been recycled, 157 markers had also been recycled, silverware had been reused 69,200 times; in the last year CASS stopped throwing out 70,000 plastic baggies; and, in four weeks, the school had not used 4,000 straws.

BRRRR kids thanked Principal Glen Widmer, Martin, and all teachers and parents who helped, and ended the presentation by saying, "Together we can make a difference."

Manning said, "Switching from plastic to reusable items creates more work, and change is not easy. So Perley Martin’s support has been critical. His decision to make the entire RSU 71 straw-free is incredible. That was a step we had never hoped for."

The parade then marched around CASS school grounds, led by a giant whale shark lantern and bagpiper.