Plymouth State University Pursues the Success of UVM

Published On November 19, 2012 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles, School, Take Action

How many disposable plastic water bottles do you throw in the trash every day? Every week? Do you leave them in your car, behind in class, or on the ground?

A group of Plymouth State students are determined to cut that number in half, or more by working to engage Student Government to implement a ban of plastic water bottles on the Plymouth State University Campus.

Zach Goldenberg, treasurer of Ending Genocide Around the World (EGAW) and student coordinator for this project, explained that it is one that has taken a long time, but the end results could be extremely beneficial to the campus, and around the world.

“The water project started with me looking at whether it was possible,” explained Goldenberg, “I had to look at the contract with the Coke company and what it was all about.”

In order to make this dream and reality, Goldenberg and the other coordinators of the project, Seamus McGrath, Christopher McCarthy, Elizabeth Kelly and BrianEisenhauer, are planning to make students aware of the issue, and get other student organizations involved.

First stop: Common Ground. The well-known environmental and social justice group on campus was the perfect ally to have in this movement.  “They were one of the first groups I went to with the project to see if they wanted to get on board with us,” said Goldenberg.

Another organization Goldenberg focused on getting involved was the one he was personally a part of, EGAW, and it proved a success:

“This is a project they want to get involved just because of the human aspect of it.”

The marketing association, M.A.P.S., is another group that has shown interest in the cause.

The financial consequences that come with supporting the sale of plastic water bottles on a campus are more extreme than most students realize. “You can pay 410,000 times as much [for bottled water] then if it came straight out the tap,” said Goldenberg, “We’re working to figure out just what the university pays in relation.”

The environmental impacts of excessive plastic waste are even more concerning then the financial ones, “There’s a massive plastic flow in middle of the Pacific, and probably in the Atlantic as well,” explained Goldenberg, “all of these plastic products that we use just accumulate in the ocean. It’s just massive, I mean miles and miles across. Environmentally it’s terrible, there’s nothing good about it.”

One of Goldenberg’s theories is that students only drink the water in bottles because they think getting it from the tap is not as sanitary:

“A lot of people have this perception that bottled water is cleaner, or that they can tell the difference. In actuality, it’s less regulated and there have been E. coli outbreaks, salmonella, the chemicals that the plastics leech have been shown to maybe be carcinogenic. They also may reduce testosterone in men because they are related to estrogen hormones and chemicals. Across the spectrum it’s a terrible choice.”

In order to fill students in about the movement to ban plastic water bottles and more information about the effects of drinking from them, they have organized ‘Water Week’ to happen the first week of December. They will be having a fundraiser at The Lucky Dog as well as a water taste test. This test will be to see if students really can distinguish bottled water from tap water:

“We’ll have available to people, water from company XYZ and we also have tap water to see if you can taste the difference or not. If not, then why go buy a bottle of water when you can just go to the tap and fill it for free?”

If this plan goes into action and Student Government issues a ban, Goldenberg and the other coordinators want to makes sure that students aren’t left hanging without water bottles.  “We don’t just want to take away and option from people,” he explained, “so we also want to install more of the fill stations like the one in the gym in the HUB.” There is also one of these fill stations located in Prospect Dining Hall.

But students will need to put the water from these fill stations somewhere, luckily, they have thought of this too by subsidizing water bottles for students and faculty, “you’ll be able to get a cheap, reusable water bottle for the fill station.”

The motivations behind Goldenberg’s efforts are rooted in a serious concern for the world’s water crisis, and first hand experiences of life without clean water.

“I’ve done three service trips down to Nicaragua and seen how those water diseases affect people. They get the skin diseases, they get the diarrhea, and they get water borne illnesses from grey water and untreated water. Being so close to those people who have to live that every day, you know, it affects you,” said Goldenberg.

In essence, he wishes to use his ideas for good, in a world where too many without water are often neglected. “The number of human lives that it affects and the solutions and their costs are so simple,” explained Goldenberg, “it’s just humiliating that we don’t invest more in programs like this around the world.”

The plan is set and the motivations are clear, all that’s needed now is student involvement and support from anywhere it can be found. The coordinators’ dreams are high, but they understand they can only change so much,Goldenberg joked, “If I could turn on the tap and get diet coke, then that would make sense too, but that’s not as likely to happen.”

They are sticking to the feasible options, focusing on disposable plastic water bottles, and they are certainly possible. The University of Vermont just banned the sale of plastic water bottles after a long wait to negotiate the Coke contract with their school. But pass the ban they did, and Plymouth State could be next.

Goldenberg is optimistic about the potential of PSU students to support the movement and the initiative of the movement ill better the world:

“We’re trying to make PSU that much greener. I think if people knew more about it they wouldn’t choose to purchase bottled water, but let’s go one step further and put PSU on the cutting edge of sustainability and be one of those schools that ban bottled water.”

[via The Clock]

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