Students make progress on eliminating bottled water

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

A team of Northwestern students are in the process of  speaking with administrators to outline future steps to take in an effort to eliminate bottled water in all on-campus locations by April 2015.

The initiative, called NU Thinks Outside the Bottle, was proposed by members of Pura Playa, a project focused on plastic waste reduction run under Engineers for a Sustainable World. It is part of a national campaign that began in 2012 called Think Outside the Bottle, which focuses on eliminating bottled water from national parks.

Pura Playa project manager Danielle Faden said this was an important issue because of the effect the initiative could have on the University’s overall environmental impact.

“There are many specific issues related to the use of bottled water, including human rights issues,” said Faden, a Weinberg junior. “Why would we use a product that takes three times as much water to make than is in it when we’re in a global water crisis?”

Members of Pura Playa have been working on the project for about a year and a half. They said the plan details efforts to phase out the sale of bottled water over the course of the next year in addition to installing more water refilling stations across campus to better satisfy student needs.

The team also spoke with Sheila Driscoll, director of business and finance, who advised the group of the need to demonstrate student support for the initiative. McCormick senior Michael Narea, co-founder and outgoing project manager of Pura Playa, said Driscoll emphasized the importance of obtaining an ASG resolution in order to encourage the administration to look into the idea.

After the group spent two to three months working on drafting the ASG proposal, the resolution passed. Narea said he thought the passing of the resolution would be “a lot harder than it was.”

“We’re not just doing this as our own group now,” Narea said. “We’re representing the leaders of these student groups as well.”

McCormick senior Megan Scherich, another co-founder and outgoing project manager of Pura Playa, said she saw the resolution as a huge victory for the project.

“It was a really exciting step for our campaign,” she said. “It’s great to have this concrete step toward our goal. It was thrilling to have student support, and it gives us really good footing to move forward with our campaign.”

Faden said moving forward, the group is planning to meet with Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, assistant vice president for student auxiliary services, to discuss possible contract negotiations with Coca-Cola.

She said they are also in touch with other universities who have gone without bottled water, including Washington University in St. Louis, which went completely bottled water free in 2009.

Faden added that the group became interested in the campaign in part because they felt it was a relatively easy step for a campus to take. Last year, Faden said the group focused on raising awareness and education of the issues with plastic bottle usage. They hosted firesides during Green Cup, posted flyers above campus water fountains and worked with Norris University Center to obtain water bottle refilling stations that were installed over the summer. The campaign also gathered more than 1,000 signatures from students, which represented initial support from the student body.

“Passing the resolution and getting the stations in Norris was a big step in the right direction,” she said. “It’s been really helpful for getting in the door with the administration and commanding their attention.”

Scherich said she hopes the project will help students realize how easy eliminating water bottle usage can be.

“It’s clear that bottled water is really unnecessary and just really wasteful,” she said. “This project seemed like an easy way to address this problem. It becomes evident that bottled water is really damaging to the earth.”

Corrected: An earlier version of this article misstated Julie Payne-Kirchmeier’s position. The Daily regrets the error. 

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