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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Water bottle reduction a priority again after five month lull

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: News

<i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

The sale of bottled water in the Usdan Café and Boulevard will be stopped, according to Students for Environmental Action (SEA) President Matt Schmidt ’11, as part of the campus-wide initiative to reduce the university’s dependence on bottled water, which began last spring.

This announcement comes after a five month long lull in bottled-water related activity, as campus administrators have become more focused on the financial crisis and the Rose.

The initiative to reduce the university’s dependence on bottled water began at the end of last spring when a committee was formed to come up with recommendations for the Brandeis administration as to how to reduce Brandeis’ “climate change impact,” said Janna Cohen-Rosenthal ’03, Brandeis’ Sustainability Coordinator. The Bottled Water Committee was a mix of students, staff, faculty and administrators, led by Jean Eddy, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment.

The committee had been working hand in hand with SEA and Cohen-Rosenthal, and decided that focusing on water bottles was a good way to reduce the university’s climate change impact.

“Waltham water is safe and healthy to drink,” Cohen-Rosenthal explained. “[Bottled water] is a luxury commodity, but we view it as a necessity.”

The initiative to reduce the university’s bottled water dependence was jump started this fall when every member of the student body had the opportunity to pick up a free water bottle, and most water fountains were outfitted with gooseneck spouts to make filling the bottles easier and to help students transition.

Aramark has added more water stations throughout the dining halls, more signage, and is currently working on a “water mural” in Usdan in accordance with the committee’s recommendation to Mike Newmark, Director of Dining Services, explained in an e-mail to the Hoot.

The Student Union had created a survey in the fall to make sure students were in favor of the water bottle idea and SEA helped to promote the survey. They did so successfully, as the survey garnered a 40 percent response rate, a huge turnout for Brandeis. Eighty percent of those respondents were in favor of reducing bottled water on campus.

The water bottle initiative is just a “small part of a bigger strategy for the university,” said Cohen-Rosenthal. Cohen-Rosenthal took advantage of the gap in the water bottle initiative to concentrate on another part of the strategy, and embarked on an educational campaign. She, along with several student “eco-reps,” put up fliers around campus and in dorms encouraging people to recycle as part of the “recyclemania” program, a competition between schools to see who has the highest recycling rate.

Brandeis has one of the lowest recycling rates; we currently have an 11 percent recycling rate as of February, up from 8 percent in January. Tufts, for example, tends to hover around a 30 percent recycling rate. To encourage recycling, Aramark has agreed to provide free ice cream on Earth Day if students can raise their recycling rate to 16% by the end of this month.

Bottled water will still be available on campus in the POD Store and other locations where visitors can purchase water or where tap water is not as easily accessible. It will only be removed in places were there are many choices and students can easily fill up a water bottle, like in Usdan. “It is not about drinking more water or a nutritional thing,” explained Cohen-Rosenthal. It is about reducing the waste that comes from the water bottles when tap water is readily available. Reducing our dependence on bottled water will also reduce costs. “It costs 8 times more to throw something away than to recycle it,” and reducing bottled water consumption will also reduce the costs incurred to transport it to Brandeis, explained Cohen-Rosenthal.

Several schools have already eliminated or reduced bottled water on their campuses, like Washington University in St. Louis, said Schmidt. Schmidt has faith in Brandeis’ ability to catch up, “I do feel like [the administration] is stepping up to the plate.”