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Recycled Bottle Cap Mural Celebrates Green Living at Upper West Side School

By Emily Frost | June 21, 2013 10:35am
 More than 1,000 bottle caps went into a mural outside the school. 
P.S. 87 Debuts Bottle Cap Mural
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A colorful mural made of more than a thousand bottle caps was hung near the entrance of P.S. 87 Thursday in a bright — and sustainable — greeting for students, teachers and parents who have embraced a host of new green initiatives at the Upper West Side school.

The elementary school, located at West 78th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, was chosen by the Department of Education last fall to be one of 60 schools in a composting pilot program geared toward focusing the entire school community on becoming more environmentally friendly.

"You should be able to say, 'It's beautiful,' but also, 'What if that was in the water or a landfill?'" parent Camilla Calamandrei said of the expansive mural that is meant to raise awareness about how much plastic people use. 

Students began collecting bottle caps for the mural in December, ultimately gathering between 1,000 and 1,250 caps by May, weighing more than 100 pounds.

Inspired by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who currently has an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and transforms found objects into sculptures, parent Abigail Gampel thought, "let's make something colorful and beautiful" out of the school's waste.

During the school's annual spring fair fundraiser last month, parents and students strung together the rainbow array of caps, linking them to create a mural that was hung on the windows and bricks of the school on Thursday. 

The initiative was organized by the school's year-old Green Team, which has also run educational programs at the school — from replacing small plastic prize toys at the school's spring fair with chances to buy a chick or a duckling for a family overseas through the international nonprofit organization Heifer International, which allows donors to buy livestock for people in developing countries.

In addition, the school started up a Recycling Rangers program, in which fourth and fifth graders monitor, track and graph each other's paper usage. The program is headed up by fifth-grade teacher Zack Howard.

"We hope this [year] is the beginning of a more consistent and sustainable green initiative... It's been a year to have this grow roots," said Gampel, who is part of the school's Green Team committee.