A student organization at the University of Connecticut is working to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on campus.
UConnPIRG, a student activist group on campus has started a “Ban the Bottle” campaign.
“The goal of the campaign is to end the sale of single-use disposable plastic bottles on campus,” UConnPIRG Secretary and third-semester environmental science major Casey Lambert said.
Early last year, a student not affiliated with UConnPIRG came to the organization with her proposal to ban water bottles. The group helped her organize the campaign and took it on as one of its own projects.
The student later transferred from UConn, and Lambert took over the campaign.
“It’s a major environmental and human rights issue, the commoditization of water and the tremendous use of plastic that the industry uses,” Lambert said.
UConn has engaged in multiple projects to make the university more environmentally conscious, such as the construction of LEED certified buildings, such as Laurel and Oak Hall.
“At a green university, like UConn, who does pride itself on being so green and so innovative, it’s a little archaic to still have plastic water bottles,” Lambert said.
UConnPIRG has been using a petition tactic to persuade the university to consider redefining the terms of its contract with Coca Cola, as the contract is set for renegotiation in June 2017.
“We want it (UConn) to change the parameters of its Coca Cola contract so we’re not obligated to sell them, that’s our only goal,” Lambert said.
Lambert said that the initiative has been popular with UConn students, as many regularly use refillable water bottles already.
“(Reusable water bottles) they’re given out for free by various organizations. They’re readily available and they’re just more sustainable and they’re what more students use anyway,” Lambert said.
UConnPIRG plans to set up visibility tables to help educate students about the issue of plastic water bottle use in the coming weeks, by handing out flyers and even giving out prizes for water bottle trivia.
“We’re trying to educate people as much as possible about what it means when you buy a water bottle and why it’s just not that efficient,” Lambert said. “It’s expensive, students don’t have money to spend on water.”
Initiatives like “Ban the Bottle” work towards a larger goal of UConnPIRG to foster a culture of sustainability on campus, Lambert said.
One way that UConn has already made an effort to decrease plastic waste is the installment of the hydration stations around campus. These stations allow students to easily refill reusable water bottles and keep track of how many disposable bottles they have eliminated the use of.
“This is something that we hope will be keeping with their goals, that it’s a common-sense thing, that water shouldn’t be sold in bottles,” UConnPIRG treasurer and senior finance major Saman Azimi said.
Everything UConnPIRG does is based on the interests and concerns of the campus community it serves, Azimi said.
“We do everything we can to get student input on what sort of campaigns are of interest to the student body. We are a public interest organization, we want to be doing work that’s in the best interest of our constituents,” Azimi said.
The fact that a student who was uninvolved with UConnPIRG started “Ban the Bottle” exemplifies how all of its campaigns are initiated and led by students with various levels of involvement with the organization, Azimi said.
“Anybody who has any idea on campus who has an idea for campaign we might run should feel welcome to come and pitch that idea, that’s the best way we develop our projects organically,” Azimi said.