Bhattacharya strives for world without plastic bags

by Ashley Attanuci
Web Manager

It was the hot summer of 2008. Junior Shorjoe Battacharya was touring with his family the country he now visits every other year. He marveled at the mountainous landscape, beaches, temples, cities and the Taj Mahal, making memories that would last a lifetime. To his surprise, what intrigued him the most was not any of the great world wonders before his eyes.

“We were out near a lake and we just saw how polluted some of the rivers and lakes were in India because people were just dumping plastic and trash,” Bhattacharya, eCoppell founder and president, said. “The lake was just full of plastic. I was in surprise and in shock. That’s when I first asked myself ‘how can we resolve this problem?’”

On that 16-plus hour flight back to the United States, Bhattacharya began to dream up a project that would eventually evolve into eCoppell, a club whose goal is to abolish the use of plastic bags in Coppell. The following summer, as Bhattacharya discussed with his best friends and soon to be partners, juniors Eesh Shetty and Suraj Kalvala, the idea for a cleaner planet began to finally materialize.

“We had to go through a long thinking process,” Bhattacharya said. “Eventually in ’09 we had time to create the foundation, and once the school year started it made it a lot easier to run the club.”

With the goal to make Coppell the first community in Texas to be rid of plastic bags, Bhattacharya hopes to extend this idea throughout the Dallas metroplex, the state of Texas, the nation and even the world.

“Coppell is a prime location with citizens who are aware of the problem, so we can just hand them the bags and briefly explain,” Bhattacharya said. “Here we can start a tier and lead by example to other cities.”

The club is now celebrating its second year at the high school. For a group that started out sending members door to door for donations, it is now hardly a fledgling club. They have partnered with Marble Slab Creamery, Fed/Ex Kinkos, Kroger’s, Indian American Friendship Council and Phytobag to collect donations and distribute reusable bags to over one thousand citizens.

The club, with more than 25 members, is known for standing outside local grocery stores and handing out their reusable tote bags, free to anybody who wants to help make change.

“Our club is important because, at Coppell High School, we are one of only three environmental clubs, and we have a focus on one project in particular,” co-vice president Shetty said. “And by focusing on this one project, we will get it done and make an impact and change the mindset of Coppell.”

Club members this year have been spending two to four hours weekly planning for the year’s events. In addition to planning T-shirt designs and fundraisers, like the African Vuvuzela horn sale during football games and school lunches, eCoppell members are striving for political support to eventually pass law in Texas for stores to charge for plastic bags.

“The motivation of the members is very sincere,” eCoppell sponsor and English teacher Susan Creighton said. “They’re working in earnest, and they really want to try some grass roots political influences. That’s how all great political movements start, locally at grassroots and then grow. We tend to get involved and write checks for causes that are a thousand miles away [so] I like that they are getting involved in a local movement here in Coppell.”

The club has so far involved itself in a range of events, including Earthfest in Coppell, Texas Discovery Gardens and Heritage Night and is planning to attend the EcoFair in Dallas next March. Their biggest idea in planning is to paint the Kroger’s Grocery Store parking lot so that each parking spot can remind shoppers not to forget their tote bags from the car.

“Our club [mission statement] is ‘I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination’ [quoted from] Jimmy Dean,” Bhattacharya said. “We know we can’t completely abolish plastic bags forever in the world, but we will try our hardest to reduce the number of plastic bags that are used in society so we can make an impact and change the world so it is a more eco-friendly place. We have a chance to really make a difference in this world.”

And thus, eCoppell is continuing to clean up the world, one plastic bag at a time.