For the third year in a row, first-year students will be offered free reusable water bottles in an effort to reduce bottle waste on the University of Connecticut's Storrs campus.
Dining services executive director Dennis Pierce said the initiative, which has gone on and off for the past 15 years due to budget reasons, is possible this year through the collaboration of UConn’s Dining Services, Office of Environmental Policy and Alumni Association.
“The OEP’s sustainability office supports this initiative,” director of environmental policy Richard Miller said. “This actually began four years ago as a collaborative effort among several departments.”
Once the bottle sample was finally approved – a sleek design with an infuser, a loop for easy carriage and a retractable spouted top – 3,000 bottles were ordered. They are set to be delivered around Sept. 28.
“We expected to have this ready for the school opening but our vendor was sending us (unsatisfactory) samples,” Pierce said.
The $9,000 investment will hopefully help to reduce the university’s ecological footprint. The bottles are part of a larger initiative called Think Outside the Bottle, according to EcoHusky’s website. In addition to pushing for reusable water bottles, the initiative encourages students to refill their water bottles at the 20 hydration stations around campus, Miller said.
“When we think of what the end results are – you have less waste on the ground, where water bottles are disposed of improperly,” Pierce said.
A university of UConn’s magnitude generates a lot of general waste, and removal comes at a cost. Willimantic Waste is responsible for picking up both landfill garbage and recyclables on campus. This year, the waste contractors increased the charges for removing the university’s recyclables, Pierce said. He hopes this water bottle initiative will also act as a solution to balance the price by reducing the amount of recyclables UConn disposes of.
The theme for this year’s bottle distribution is Hydrate for Life. As the theme suggests, the bottles will serve as a message to promote healthy water intake in addition to reducing waste, Pierce said.
Dining services is working closely with the OneCard office to keep a running record of the bottles, ensuring no more than one bottle per customer. Once the shipment arrives, the bottles will be sent to the dining units, where first year students can obtain a bottle by having their cards swiped, Pierce said.
Various methods of advertisement will let first year students know about their option to pick up the free water bottle.
“Students have the option of picking these up – it’s not a mandatory thing,” Pierce said. “We’re conservative in the amount that we order because we know that not all students are going to say ‘yeah give me a water bottle.’ Or they may say ‘yeah give me a water bottle because I need a backup.’”
After a few weeks of distributing the bottles to first year students, the leftover quantity will be given to other student groups on campus, Pierce said.
“It’s more of not assessing that there is a significant increase (in reusable water bottle use); it’s more that we have seen a decrease in the amount of bottled water sold on this campus historically,” Pierce said.