Tahoe students make progress on ‘Plastic Footprint Project’

Special to the Bonanza

The sculpture, a foot made of plastic water bottles squishing the Earth and leaving a large footprint, is getting closer to completion.
Courtesy Ann Clark |

Summer is a time for fun in the sun for most students. That hasn’t been the case this summer for a core group of dedicated teens and elementary students committed to raising awareness about the growing problem of single-use plastics.

The “Plastic Footprint Project” is an art outreach project lead by Ann Clark, Incline High School art teacher, intended to have a big impact.

Several of Clark’s high school students, IHS Generation Green Club, and Eric Harssema’s third-graders have generously shared their time on this important project.

The sculpture, a foot made of plastic water bottles squishing the Earth and leaving a large footprint, asks its viewers to be aware of the effects of plastic on our Earth, our animals, and our own health.

“We’re hoping that people will rethink and reduce their own use of plastic, particularly single-use plastics, like plastic grocery bags and plastic water bottles,” Clark said. “Our use of disposable plastic has gotten out of hand and we need to make a change in our habits now.”

The Plastic Footprint Project asks all consumers to answer the question: “What is YOUR plastic footprint?”

“Almost all of our sculpture has been made from ‘obtanium,’ so we’ve had very little to purchase,” Clark said.

Students have been collecting and cleaning plastic water bottles and collecting metal boat tags from the beaches to attach the bottles to the chicken wire.

Megan Rachlin donated a very large roll of chicken wire. Metal from the armature came mostly from scraps donated by Incline Glass. The footprint is made from plastic fencing retrieved from the dumpster and leftover cans of paint.

“We’re trying to reuse as much as possible,” said Clark, “to keep our costs down but especially to repurpose items that were heading for the landfills.”

Students have also been sewing old T-shirts into cloth bags to hand out for people to use instead of asking for new plastic bags at the grocery stores.

The sculpture couldn’t have been possible without Brett Simerly, the project’s master welder, and his hard-working assistant, Davis Clark. They built the entire armature.

Babs Kenjorki (Incline local and substitute teacher) has been a huge help with all aspects of the project. Shannon Dillard and Madonna Dunbar from WasteNot, and Rebecca Anderson with A.C.E. (Alliance for Climate Education), also have lent support.

Materials and support also have come from ISAEF, Incline Ace Hardware and the Earth Guardians, the Leave No Trace group for Burning Man.

The chicken wire will be added to the sculpture this week and then it’ll be time to add the water bottles.

On Thursday, Aug. 15, the sculpture will be brought to Incline Beach so the students can continue the work publicly. They’ll be there from 1-6 p.m. Everyone is invited.

The group will have a table for awareness-raising, and students will talk about the project and its goal. Beth Terry’s book “Plastic Free” will be available along with T-shirt bags, “Drink Tahoe Tap” stickers, metal water bottles and more.

The Plastic Footprint Project has been getting much attention locally and even nationally. Students will be interviewed by Capitol Public Radio at the event.

The group has aligned itself with the Plastic Pollution Coalition of California and the Plastic Ocean Project of North Carolina.

The students been requested by Squaw Valley Institute to install the sculpture for their Plastic Pollution Coalition symposium on Dec. 19. The sculpture will also be installed at the Earth Guardians’ camp at Black Rock City.

For more information about the project, contact Ann Clark at

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