Student activist group UConnPIRG and the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Committee are collaborating to gradually ban the sale of single-use disposable water bottles at the University of Connecticut as part of the UConnPIRG “Ban the Bottle” campaign.
“We’re not banning plastic water bottles on campus, we’re not going to arrest you if you have a plastic water bottle, but really we just want the university to stop selling them,” Ban the Bottle campaign coordinator, UConnPIRG secretary and fourth-semester environmental science major Casey Lambert said.
Representatives from the Sustainability Committee and UConnPIRG will soon present legislation about the sale of single-use disposable water bottles, according to Myles Gibbs, Sustainability Committee Chairperson, USG senator representing the school of engineering and Eurotech program senior.
The legislation affirms UConn students’ support for eliminating the sale of single-use disposable water bottles on campus in light of UConnPIRG collecting about 3,200 petition signatures from students backing the Ban the Bottle campaign, Gibbs said.
“On the surface, (the legislation is) a statement of position that says, ‘This is the belief that the UConn student body and USG as the representation of the student body has and this is what we would like to see implemented,’” Gibbs said. “The main goal in that statement of position is that we are encouraging the UConn administration, faculty, staff, alumni and students all to take immediate steps toward going bottled water-free, with the goal of being a completely disposable plastic water bottle-free campus by fall 2020.”
According to Gibbs, the legislation outlines a sequence of actions that will be taken over the next several years to achieve this goal.
“What we’ve laid out within the legislation are a couple of intermediate steps including investing in the expansion of drinking fountain infrastructure by installing more water fountain refill stations, with a goal of having at least one station per main campus building…and we’d like that implemented by fall 2019,” Gibbs said. “We’ve also put in a statement that encourages the elimination of single-use disposable water bottles at all university hosted events, and we’re going to work with student activities and community outreach for those initiatives, as they help with a lot of those events.”
The groups aim to work with other student organizations to distribute reusable water bottles to incoming freshmen, Lambert said.
“We’re also trying out reach to orientation services and other groups on campus…to try to ensure that every freshman coming in is provided with a reusable water bottle so that they’re set for their career at UConn,” Lambert said.
Gibbs said that he is now working on a plan to frequently distribute reusable water bottles to other students as well.
“Every semester, USG student services committee works very hard to put on the student appreciation day…I sit on the student services committee as well, and my goal is to make sure that at all ensuring student appreciation days, we’re also distributing water bottles,” Gibbs said. “If we continue to provide opportunities for students to get free refillable water bottles, say even once a semester, in terms of the total waste that you’re putting into a land fill, that’s a lot less than using a disposable water bottle every time you just want to have a sip of water.”
UConn will renew its beverage vendor contracts, which include the purchase of single-use disposable water bottles, in June 2017, Gibbs said. This impending contract renewal also spurred the legislation’s drafting, he added.
“The reason it’s a priority at the moment is because UConn renews its contracts with its beverage vendors, including Coca Cola, every three years, and that contract negotiation and signing is coming up this June, so we would like to pass this legislation and get assurances from the administration that they will write out from that contract all single-use disposable water bottles,” Gibbs said.
Lambert said that reducing the amount of plastic waste that UConn produces will have a broad environmental impact.
“All of Connecticut and all of Rhode Island fall in the Long Island watershed region. We think we’re in eastern Connecticut, kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and that we’re not affecting our oceans, but everything we do on campus does,” Lambert said.
According to Gibbs, all UConn students have the opportunity to get involved with Ban the Bottle, as well as the sustainability committee.
“USG committees are open to the public, so you don’t have to be an elected senator or a member of USG to come to the meetings, help with these initiatives and make your opinion known,” Gibbs said.
Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.