At a recent Student Congress meeting, the Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK) proposed an initiative to remove plastic water bottles from campus vending machines. The plan was well received from Student Congress members.
“It’s a good idea, because we all agree that plastic water bottles are a waste,” Student Congress President Corbett Austin said. “I feel like a lot of students will support it, but of course there are some logistical issues.”
SEAK member and campaign initiator Jessica Olson further described SEAK’s plan of action.
“SEAK is writing grants to get something called Elkay Easy H2O, a water fountain attachment that you can actually put your water bottle under to fill it up,” Olson said. “It has a little ticker that tells you how many bottles you’ve prevented from going to the landfill, because the sad thing is that most bottles aren’t actually recycled.”
According to studies by National Geographic, the production of plastic bottles requires millions of barrels of oil per year, and the transportation of bottled water from its source to stores releases thousands of tons of carbon dioxide.
“People have rather serious health ramifications caused by the exhaust coming from the petrol burning to make that plastic,” Olson said.
The initiative entails a comprehensive plan that focuses not only on removing bottled water, but also on increasing the accessibility of clean, free drinking water for students.
“SEAK is definitely making sure we have the infrastructure in place so that if we were to get rid of bottled water, people would be able to access their own,” Olson said. “Ideally we would be able to get it to the point where every student on campus would be able to have a really nice metal reusable bottle. That is the long-term goal.”
Beyond the environmental harm done by plastic water bottles, other issues that affect students have arisen.
“Water bottle companies are selling something that is essentially free, and that is seen as a human right. The statistic I most commonly see is that bottled water is 1000 times more expensive than tapwater,” Olson said. “As students, why would you want to spend your PirateBucs on a bottle of water when you could be eating at Dia Thai or doing your laundry with those PirateBucs?”
Student Congress plans to gauge student responses to the proposal before making a decision.
“We don’t know how the campus will react to it, since SEAK’s holistic idea is to get rid of all plastic bottles on campus,” Austin said. “We’re going to e-mail the student body to see how they feel about it … If it’s positive feedback, we’ll look at all the ideas possible … It’s a work in progress.”
The upcoming poll will provide students with the ability to share their reactions, opinions, and suggestions regarding the initiative.
“In some way we’re going to make the school more environmentally friendly, it just has to be the right way,” said Austin. “It’s up to the students, not up to [Student Congress].”