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The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

It’s Time to Talk about the Regatta’s Wasteful Side

We should take steps as a school to limit the amount of waste we create as a result of this beloved tradition.
Haley Pedersen ’25

The Reynolds’ Regatta is a beloved Community Day tradition, with this year marking the ninth time it took place. Students, faculty, alumni and other members of our Albuquerque Academy community band together to race each other across the swimming pool in hand-crafted boats made of duct tape and cardboard. This event is extremely popular, with a total of 73 boats racing in this year’s Regatta alone. However, with all those boats comes a whole lot of wasted cardboard and duct tape that needs to be disposed of afterwards. As a school that has pledged to use its resources in order to promote sustainability, it’s contradictory to spend so much energy, time and discussion on how to keep our school environmentally friendly and still turn a blind eye to the wasteful side of this popular annual event.
As we all know, the climate is changing rapidly. In recent years, temperatures have steadily been increasing each year, and excessive waste in landfills contributes to the issue. As cardboard begins to break down, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that helps exacerbate climate change. About 14% of all methane emissions come from landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 67.4 million tons of paper and cardboard were thrown away in 2018, and with the amount of garbage Americans throw away each year, it’s unlikely that that number has decreased. If each team in the Reynolds Regatta used about three pounds of cardboard and three rolls of duct tape (around three pounds) to build their boats, that would mean that about 219 pounds of cardboard and 219 pounds of duct tape would have ended up in a landfill after the Regatta, based on the number of teams from 2023. This is a conservative estimate, as many teams use far more than three rolls of duct tape to cover every inch of their boat.
One obvious suggestion to reduce the amount of waste from the Regatta is to recycle the used cardboard and duct tape to keep it from going into a landfill. Unfortunately, a problem with attempting to recycle our boats from the Regatta is that wet or greasy cardboard cannot be recycled. Additionally, duct tape is made of several different layers of material and adhesive that cannot be separated, making it also virtually unrecyclable. So, all of our sopping wet cardboard and duct tape boats will continue to fill up space in a landfill year after year.
Meg Reese, the sponsor of Albuquerque Academy’s Environmental Club, has also voiced her concerns about how much waste the Regatta generates. As a start, Reese mentioned that we could limit the amount of material each advisory can use to build their boats, as well as each boat’s size. This is a great way to preserve our school’s community building efforts and avoid doing something as draconian as ending the event forever. While also being environmentally friendly, imposing material limits could also make building the boats more challenging, which could drive competitors to be more creative with their boat ideas (like the Scott advisory this year). Furthermore, the solution could reduce teachers’ and students’ out-of-pocket costs for the Regatta, as many advisors rely on someone in the group to buy enough duct tape to cover their boats.
Albuquerque Academy has already taken steps towards making our campus more sustainable by rebuilding the path and reducing the amount of grass on campus that needs to be watered. A measured approach to reducing the waste of the Regatta can help us manage our impact on the environment while ensuring that future Academy students can enjoy racing cardboard boats and build long-lasting relationships in the future.

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About the Contributor
Haley Pedersen ’25, Graphics Editor
Haley ‘25 is the Advocate’s Graphic Art Editor. Their overall artist career sprouted at a young age from their various dragon sketches and drawings, while their digital art career with The Advocate was initiated around two and a half years ago. As well as an Advocate staff member, Haley is involved with numerous other Albuquerque Academy clubs such as Science Olympiad, Engineering Club, Go Club, and Stargazing Club. Outside of their school activities, Haley is found munching on a Rice Crispy treat, specifically with rainbow sprinkles, while chatting on Discord with friends and watching their Cookie Clicker game on the computer. 

Comments (4)

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  • G

    G. OvittDec 21, 2023 at 10:30 am

    Thanks so much for writing this article! It has long seemed to me that the waste of tape and cardboard (can you recycle waterlogged cardboard? Only if it is dried out before recycling) is pretty pointless. Traditions can be lovely, but some traditions need to be adjusted to meet the realities of the age in which we live–I agree with Ms. Lipkowitz: why not use the school’s existing flotilla of kayaks and canoes instead of throwing away a waterlogged ton of otherwise perfectly reusable cardboard? This may seem trivial, but we are fast approaching various climatic tipping points, and doing even little things to delay climate disaster are worth doing.

    I should mention that I am not currently a robot.

    • V

      VinhDec 21, 2023 at 5:24 pm

      As a person that contributed to building a boat for my own advisory, I believe that using existing kayaks would steal the joy of creating our own water vessel. However, I am aware on just how much cardboard advisory members bring in, and then never use. Additionally, most of the rowers just jump into the boat, spontaneously drowning it in the process. I agree with Haley on that there should be a cap on the amount of cardboard and tape brought in, so as to limit how much of it is wasted in the process, just like with food. Therefore, the tradition can still be updated to meet current times and still stay how it was in the past in a very original form, but with minimal harm.

      By the way, I am also not a bot.

  • S

    Stephen SmithDec 21, 2023 at 10:08 am

    The boxes we use are already items that we would throw in the trash instead of the recycling bin, if we wanted to put out this point of not wasting items, then clubs like the Science Olympiad shouldn’t be using any of the wood materials you are available to and don’t reuse

  • S

    Stephanie LipkowitzDec 21, 2023 at 9:56 am

    This is a brave article, and I also have felt uncomfortable with the amount of waste that we produce for some hours of fun. I wish we could have a boat race with actual kayaks and kids could hold recyclable banners aloft or some other way of personalizing the boat. There are ways to hold the regatta in a new way; we just need to be creative in re-visioning the event.