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Students, admin. work to reduce campus waste

Published: August 29, 2008
Section: News


As part of a collaborative effort between students and the administration to decrease bottled water consumption at Brandeis, the Campus Sustainability Initiative is distributing a free reusable water bottle to every undergraduate student and installing water refill stations on campus.

Matt Schmidt ’11, President of Students for Environmental Action, explained that recycling is an energy-intensive process and it is more efficient to reduce and reuse. “We want to create a more sustainable campus with less bottled water by providing alternatives,” he said. “It really reinforces our commitment to sustainability.”

Sustainability Coordinator Janna Cohen-Rosenthal added that the water bottle project “is a great way to educate the community because it highlights how the decisions we make have big implications.” She also emphasized that while the water bottle project will be a “big lifestyle change” for Brandeis, it is just one part of greater sustainability efforts which include hiring student Eco-Reps for each quad, switching to single-stream recycling and much more.

The bottled water project grew from Tap That, a campaign started by SEA to encourage the consumption of tap water in place of bottled water in order to reduce the university’s environmental impact. This campaign turned to larger policy action when students approached President Jehuda Reinharz to ask for a significant reduction in or elimination of the use of bottled water on campus.

In response, Reinharz has requested that Aramark discontinue the use of bottled water at catered events on campus and has also asked Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy to create a committee comprised of students, faculty and staff to review the issues of bottled water on campus. Reinharz explained his decision to “take a leadership role on the issue of bottled water and other environmental issues” in an e-mail to the Brandeis community.

“[T]he purchase of bottled water has crucial social, environmental, economic, and health implications,” he wrote. “The production, transport, and disposal of bottled water are wasteful, energy intensive and polluting, and, on a national basis, more than 85 percent of water bottles end up in landfills.”

So far, the water bottle initiative has garnered positive reactions from many students. Environmental Studies major Lindsey Sarquilla ’10 said, “this is one of the coolest things they’ve done at Brandeis so far. I think people sometimes focus too much on the recycling aspect of the triangle instead of the more important aspects, reducing and reusing, and these water bottles do both.”

Water bottles will continue to be distributed next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12 to 3 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium.