UNLV Ban the Bottle Efforts: An Interview With the “Take Back the Tap” Coordinator

Published On July 18, 2012 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles

Below is a highlighted interview conducted between myself and University of Nevada, Las Vegas “Take Back the Tap” Campus Coordinator, Monica Garcia. Here at Ban the Bottle, we were interested to learn more about the ongoing efforts towards successfully banning the sale of plastic bottled water colleges such as UNLV. UNLV is just one university that is making progress towards banning the bottle. To see more schools who have joined the Ban the Bottle movement click here! 

Hannah: Why were you interested in banning the bottle on your campus?

Monica: I became an active member in attempting to eliminate the use of plastic bottles at UNLV when I became the campus coordinator for the campaign called Take Back the Tap that is sponsored by the non-profit Food and Water Watch.
This campaign is present throughout many universities across the country and fall of 2011, the campaign was launched at UNLV. The campaign contracts an intern or otherwise known as the ‘Take Back the Tap Campus Coordinator’ to initiate a grassroots campaign against plastic bottle sales at universities.

It is important to consider the goal of banning the use of plastic bottles in campuses because  annually the consumption of plastic bottles is significantly higher than in other organizations. It would create a positive impact if this goal can actively be achieved throughout universities across the United States and the world. The act also would make a defining statement in showing the will of the Las Vegas as a community in striving for sustainability practices.

Hannah: When did you launch the movement towards banning the bottle?

Monica: When I was contracted as an intern with the Food and Water Watch non-profit for their Take Back the Tap campaign. The campaign was launched in the fall semester of 2011. Since taking up the position I have worked towards promoting the petition towards a reduction in plastic bottle sales at UNLV along with hosting and co-hosting events to bring awareness on campus on this thriving issue.

HannahHow have you brought awareness to the idea of banning the bottle on your campus?

Monica: I am actively working with the environmental organization present at UNLV called the Sierra Student Coalition and I am also the Vice President for this organization. Also, in an effort to achieve maximum exposure, I am working closely with the ‘Rebel Recycling’ program at UNLV along with the U.S. Green Building Council UNLV Chapter. With these collaborations developing over the course of this past year, I was able to organize various events around campus like screening relevant documentary shows like the ‘Blue Gold’, attending important staff/faculty meetings, appearing in various classrooms promoting the Take Back the Tap encouraging individuals to sign the petition, and Take Back the Tap appeared in one of UNLV’s biggest events called Festival of Communities. We were also invited to presidential meetings of the university and were commended for our good work.  Rebel Recycling was able to gather funds to purchase portable water filling stations for bigger events held frequently around the campus.

HannahWhat are the benefits you wish to see from banning the bottle?

Monica: Environmentally, plastic is one of the prominent factors of global pollution. Since campuses have multi million contracts with major corporations, it would be a major step if plastic bottles do get banned. Apart from the visible environment benefits, it will also promote the usage of safer methods of drinking water. For example filtration systems both on campus and at homes and use of filtering bottles. It is also a money-saving habit because the cost of buying plastic water bottles is far higher than investing in these alternative methods.

Hannah: What changes and progress have you noticed since the launch?

Monica: After taking up this movement, slowly but surely important steps can be seen. Multiple water monsters and portable water stations were approved and purchased in the last semester which will significantly decrease the consumption of water bottles during major events.

We have received immense positive response from the President of UNLV regarding this issue in all our meetings. More and more BRITA filtration systems are being installed around campus which helps in cultivating a more healthy drinking habit.  More importantly, due to various collaborations, and therefore wider exposure, the university community is beginning to see this issue with more importance and the willingness to know about the ill effects of plastic bottle usage.

Hannah: How have staff/students accepted the movement? What was the initial reaction? What feedback have you received?

Monica: The staff were cooperative and wanted to know more about the movement. We attended  a couple of staff meetings where the movement was appreciated. We were asked various questions about the effectiveness of the cause and we were suggested various steps we can take in order to reach more people and get positive feedback and financial aid from departments.

The reaction of students have also always been positive, people are usually very willing to learn and accept that this is a major issue that should be considered.

HannahWhat additional steps do you think should be taken in order to successfully ban the bottle?

Monica: More awareness on every level should be created. By this, I mean not only between students of the university, but also between staff and the administration. More media coverage will certainly help achieve this. Also, I believe reaching out with younger and enthusiastic new students and instilling the advantages of tap water over bottled will go a long way in making sure this movement is not restricted to certain people over a small period of time. Most importantly, asking the President himself to take a stand against plastic bottled water in hopes he and his influential decision makers can make a university policy against spending university funds toward plastic bottled water.

Hannah: What challenges or implications have you encountered since the launch of the ban?

Monica: Since most of the community is under the impression that bottled water is a lot better than tap water in quality, the biggest challenge is the stubborn mindset of people. It is difficult sometimes to explain that both are effectively the same thing, but one is very much expensive than the other and that the plastic packaging actually makes the quality decrease.

HannahWhen do you expect to have fully banned the bottle on your campus?

Monica: We are expecting to make some significant progress in this direction during the Spring of 2012 and Fall of 2013.

HannahWhat other green steps are you taking within your campus?

Monica: I am involved with Rebel Recycling and in this direction I was active in organizing the ‘Earth Hour’ events this year. Merely, staying active with all ‘green’ topics at UNLV is crucial and a passion of mine.

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