I’d App That

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The Food and Water Watch has created this nifty little app to help spread awareness about how accessible free water really is and where it can be found. It also helps to discredit the “but it’s so convenient” argument for bottled water. This is a great app that allows you to map water fountains and filtration stations aka I have spent many a study break wandering around buildings mapping and photographing water fountains! It’s been fun seeing all the little taps appear on the map. However, there are many more filtration stations and water fountains on campus. So, Dickinson iPhone and Android users, download this app and join in on the tap scavenger hunt! Let’s see if we can get every water fountain and filtration station mapped by the end of the semester–when you start looking for them, you notice that they are everywhere!

Don’t forget to take the pledge on the app as well. It tracks colleges and right now, Dickinson is ranked 29th overall and 2nd for a school of our size. Not bad, Dickinson!

Sustainability Surcharge on Water Bottles

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On Friday, the members of the Dickinson community received the following email from Ken Shultes, Associate Vice President of Campus Operations:

In an effort to reduce the consumption and disposal of plastic water bottles on campus, a new initiative will go into effect this semester, starting on Jan. 19, 2013. The initiative is simple—to encourage the campus community to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles by placing a $1.00 sustainability surcharge on the purchase of any water bottle on campus (from vending machines, The Devil’s Den or Dining Services). The proceeds from the initiative will be used in part to fund new sustainability initiatives in the future.

An important part of the initiative is to make filtered water readily available on campus by installing new Water Bottle Filling Stations. Five stations were installed last semester, and by early February Facilities Management will have installed 10 additional stations, thanks in large part to funding from the Student Senate for 10 of the stations. For added convenience, we plan on installing two outdoor Bottle Filling Stations in the spring.

The objective of reducing the consumption of plastic water bottles on campus and the broader “Take Back the Tap” movement has been championed by the student environmental organization EarthNow, and has garnered widespread student support, including the signing of a student petition to eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles on campus and the endorsement for the gradual reduction of water bottles on campus by the Student Senate. The sustainability surcharge is the proposed solution for this objective.

Although bottled water is still available on campus, it is now taxed, and that money will go towards funding sustainable initiatives (such as a few more filling stations in years to come maybe?). The idea is that by providing more filling stations, students will have fewer and fewer reasons to buy bottled water (some such reasons now are that there are two few water fountains, and that many of the water fountains are old and have funny-tasting water). The filling stations provide clean, filtered water where there doesn’t seem to be any. Also, the surcharge provides the incentive for people who frequently buy bottled water to buy one reusable water bottle instead and fill it for free.

The surcharge and the additional filling stations are not the end of Take Back the Tap on Dickinson’s campus, but they are a great start. They are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of EarthNow members, Dickinson facilities, Student Senate, and Dickinson students, and we’re excited to see where this partnership will lead us.

Locations of filling stations (complete instillation by early February)

 

Water Bottle Facts

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Environmental:

  • Out of the 50 billion bottles of water being bought each year, 80% end up in a landfill, even though recycling programs exist.
  • 17 million barrels of oil are used in producing bottled water each year–enough to fuel over 1 million cars for a year.
  • If water and soft drink bottlers had used 10% recycled materials in their plastic bottles in 2004, they would have saved the equivalent of 72 million gallons of gasoline. If they had used 25%, they would have saved enough energy to electrify more than 680,000 homes for a year.
  • In 2003, the California Department of Conservation estimated that roughly three million water bottles are trashed every day in that state. At this rate, by 2013 the amount of unrecycled bottles will be enough to create a two-lane highway that stretches the state’s entire coast.
  • In 2004 the recycling rate for all beverage containers was 33.5%. If it reached 80%, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of removing 2.4 million cars from the road for a year.
  • That bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.

Economic:

  • Bottled water costs 1,000 times more than tap water. Drinking 2 liters of tap water a day only costs 50 cents per year.

Health:

  • Plastic leaches toxins into the water, which have been linked to health problems such as reproductive issues and cancer.
  • New York City tap water surpasses all federal and state health standards.
  • Bottlers don’t have to let consumers know if their product becomes contaminated, but sometimes they pull their products from stores (happening about 100 times between 1990 and 2007).
  • Water bottles have been recalled for being contaminated with mold, benzene, coliform, microbes, and even crickets.

Sources:
Bottled Water Vs. Tap Water
The US Consumes 1500 Plastic Water Bottles Every Second, a fact by Watershed

Phasing out the Sale of Plastic Water Bottles on Dickinson College Campus

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Purpose: The purpose of this project is to create, overtime, a campus that does not sell plastic water bottles

Goals:
1. to phase out the sale of plastic water bottles on Dickinson College campus
2. to create a consumer culture amongst Dickinsonians that supports reusable water bottles
3. to promote the benefits, environmentally, economically, and socially, of tap water

Financial Overview:
This project requires no initial funding. The only funding we have considered asking for in the future is for the installation of another water bottle filling station. Also, funds to provide reusable water bottles to the incoming first-years beginning next fall.
We expect the individual consumer to save money because they are using a free service to get water rather than paying for water bottles. We expect the college to lose money. Water bottles will no longer be sold. This is a very unique product that sells well and is hard to replace. There is potential for replacing the physical space that water bottles took up with another equally demanded and more expensive product that could make this ban economically beneficial to the school. However, as of now, that product has not been identified. We have also considered potentially selling filled, reusable water bottles. People would then not be paying for water but for the service of having water in a bottle that they do not have to wash or carry with them. This could potentially be a way to generate money. However, this would be a separate project due to its complexity and required funds.

How does the phasing out of plastic water bottles benefit campus?
This initiative is a reflection of the Dickinson education. Water bottles connect many different areas of education. First, the privatization of water is a social justice issue. Water is claimed by a company that bottles it. Then consumers have to purchase it. However, these water sources have fed the cultures that exist around them for centuries. There are ties to the water because of its role it plays in existence. The people who depended on this water for existence now have to pay for it. In some areas, the people can’t afford the prices. This gives the power to decide who lives and who dies to water bottle companies. They are choosing that only those with money can exist on this planet.

Water bottles cause environmental issues. The water that flows through a place is sold elsewhere when it is a necessary part of the cycle that exists in that habitat. The water moves through this habitat, replenishing itself. When it is removed there is no replenishment. The ecosystem needs the water for life and it is gone. Also, plastic water bottles are an enormous source of waste. Plastics are made from synthesized chemicals that have no natural cycle to remove them from our environment. Therefore, they remain there as a pile of waste that has to sit in someone’s backyard and leech these chemicals.

Water bottles present an economic connection as well. We pay for a necessity when we buy water bottles. Meanwhile, a consumer can get it for free from any tap. Sink, shower, water fountain, all of these are free and often have water that is of higher quality than that in water bottles. When a consumer pays for a water bottle they pay a thousand times more for their water then they would if they drank from the tap. Also, an economist can recognize that there are no financial incentives for a water bottle company to consider the destruction they are causing. The only way to impact them without a change in policy is to change demand.

From a health, safety and policy point of view tap water is required to be carefully regulated and treated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Food and Drug administration inspects bottled water. They interpret requirements by the EPA and selectively apply them. They also put the responsibility of testing on the company. There is no incentive for the company to monitor the quality of their water. That means water can be taken from any unsuitable source. Tested water bottles have been found to have traces of toxic chemicals like arsenic and toluene.