By Anna Mayes
Elm Staff Writer
According to the Container Recycling Institute, almost 80 percent of water bottles used in the U.S. end up in a landfill or an incinerator. Research shows that although the bottles are recyclable, they are not being recycled. Eager to fight the waste and environmental detriment caused by plastic water bottles, the Washington College Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) has helped bring new water fountains to campus that allow students to refill reusable water bottles.
The SEA is an environmental advocacy organization on campus that is committed to promoting environmentally sustainable programs and educating the student body about current environmental issues.
“SEA has been working on mobilizing people around the effort to end the sale of plastic water bottles on campus for a few years, but actually created a subcommittee within the club just last spring,” said SEA President Emily Cross-Barnet. This committee met once a week outside of their regular meetings in order to keep focus on goals.
“We knew we wanted to combine ending the sale of plastic water bottles on campus with the installation of new water bottle refilling stations and the provision of reusable water bottles to students,” said Cross-Barnet.
The name of the committee in charge of these goals is called “Back to Tap,” because the mission is to educate students about the incredibly safe and drinkable water Chestertown offers and encourage them to make environmentally responsible choices.
During these meetings, the committee deliberated on the best ways to encourage reusable water bottle use on campus, created educational materials and surveys, met with faculty and staff members, and budgeted with the help of Student Government Association (SGA) for the five new refill stations now on campus, and the custom water bottles given to all incoming freshmen.
Cross-Barnet said that they were lucky to have the support of Katie Walker, who was appointed secretary of the environment for the SGA late in the spring semester.
“She really helped us expedite the funding process so Buildings & Grounds was able to install the five new water fountains over the summer. SGA wound up granting $13,000, which was even more than we’d asked for,” said Cross-Barnet.
During the first three weeks of classes in the fall of 2015, the cafes on campus sold 15 cases of Dasani Water (360 bottles). During the first three weeks of this semester, they sold 10 cases (240 bottles). This is still high, but a great step in the right direction.
Don Stanwick, director of Dinning Services, attributes this decline in sales to the new water fountains, especially the one in Hodson.
The Back to Tap committee still has a lot of work to do. “The main goals of Back to Tap will be to promote awareness about Chestertown’s high-quality tap water, the new refill stations, giving away more reusable water bottles, and making lasting policy changes,” said Cross-Barnet.
Stanwick is planning to remove bottled water from the Coca-Cola contract, which is up for renewal in 2018. Additionally, SEA is currently in the process of reviving an initiative that was started in 2007 called “George Goes Green” or “G3”.
The committees for G3 are Back to Tap, Food Waste Reduction, and R4 (Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle). In addition to joining these committees, SEA wants to get students engaged in more off-campus environmental activism.
By Anna Mayes