Thirsty for Sustainability
Filtered water provided at new refill stations around the campus
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011 13:09
Think recyclable plastic water bottles contribute to Santa Clara's goal of being a sustainable campus? Think again.
According to details in a report by the Associated Student Government, it takes three bottles of water to make and distribute one single-use plastic bottle, and a single plastic bottle generates 120 grams of greenhouse gases.
Along with help from other groups on campus, the ASG is pushing the Water Bottle Free Initiative to reduce the sale of bottled water on campus. This year, all incoming freshman were provided with a high quality water bottle that they could refill instead of buying a traditional disposable water bottle.
Senior Courtney Seymour, the president of ASG, is heading the campaign to transform how students think about sustainability. "It's about making students more sustainable by habit," said Seymour. "Instead of waking up and buying a bottle of water, now they will have a bottle that they can fill."
Parallel to the campaign, the Facilities Department spent about $20,000 to install 21 filtered water stations around campus over the summer, so that students can easily refill their water bottles between classes, meetings or trips to the gym. In the coming month, the total number of stations will be increased to 30.
Vice President of ASG Senior Lindsay Gray said that having free, clean water available to students would help make it easier for students to make sustainable decisions. "It's about making the process easier," said Gray,"so that students don't have to go out of their way to make an environmentally friendly decision."
To make use of the new stations even easier, ASG has printed QR codes onto the refillable water bottles that link to a map of the locations of the refill installations around campus.
The push for sustainability isn't just about environmental justice. According to the initial proposition by former ASG Senator Chris Freeburg ('11), plastic water bottles cost the university over $10,000. Additionally, the cost of transporting water in large jugs cost the university over $30,000.
In order to reduce the use of disposable water bottles around campus, a deal has been reached with Bon Apetít to reduce shelf space for single-use bottles and to add the reusable Santa Clara water bottles.
Vice President of Auxiliary Services Jane Barrantes facilitated the deal after members of ASG approached her last year.
"I brought the proposal to (General Manager of Bon Appetít Dining Services) Bob Lubecky and he was very open and receptive to the idea," she said. According to Barrantes, Bon Appetít has greatly reduced shelf space for disposable water bottles in the Marketplace as well as began selling the reusable bottles, but the old water bottles remain readily available in places that see more visitors, such as Sunstream Café.
The point was not to ban water bottles but to "encourage sustainable behavior in students," said Barrantes. "We wanted to focus on the positive instead of telling people what to do."
According to Gray, this is why the bottles were given out to freshmen. The point of the campaign is to make using a reusable water bottle the norm, said Gray. "We want them to see their friends using them and to continue using them throughout their college career."
Senior Julie Peterson, who was last year's ASG senator-at-large for sustainability, said that she hoped that the initiative would form positive peer-pressure to use the water bottles.
The initiative also went through Director of the Office of Sustainability Lindsey Cromwell, who helped ASG coordinate the resources for the initiative. "Students have shown interest in this idea throughout the years, but (Freeburg) really sat down and said, ‘Let's do this.'"
Cromwell said that she could understand that disposable bottles cannot be rid of completely, but she is happy to see things are moving in that direction.
Barrantes agreed with the sentiment, saying: "Not everyone carries around their own disposable bottle, but we did make it around without bottled water, and I think we're headed back in that direction."
Contact Matt Rupel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4849.