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Water refill stations ‘save’ more than 370,000 plastic bottles

The installment of 49 water bottle refill stations on both the Lake Shore and Water Tower Campuses has “saved” approximately 370,000 bottles of water and counting, according to Alexandra Vecchio, 21, president of Students for Environmental Alliance (SEA).
“I think that it’s a surprising statistic,” said freshman Elizabeth Guilbert, 18. “I think a part of it has to do with the fact that since we don’t have any water bottles [sold on campus], we are forced to use reusable water bottles,” said the English and theatre double major.

The $88,000-installment of these water bottle refill stations followed the ban of bottled water sales on campus, which was passed by a majority vote, 56.7 percent, of students in May.

Vecchio, a senior environmental studies and sociology double major, said the reasoning for the push for refill stations — and the water bottle ban in May — was more about increasing students’ access to water, rather than only reducing plastic waste and pollutants.

Students in the Unified Student Government Association (USGA) and SEA promote the idea that access to water is a human right, and by banning the sale of bottled water, Loyolans are fulfilling the university’s mission to “be in service of humanity.”

“We believe water is a human right and everyone should have access to water,” said senior Julia Poirier, 21, president of USGA, which partnered with SEA in their campaign against bottled water sales on campus. “It shouldn’t be something that’s a privilege,” said the communication and human services double major.

Poirier commented on how many water bottles have been saved due to the water refill stations.

“I couldn’t be more excited [about the success of the ban],” Poirier said. “It really shows our commitment to the mission statement of this university as well as our commitment to the environment and to social justice.”

However, some students do not know that social justice issues are the reasoning behind the ban.

“I was told [water bottles were] banned because they wanted to reduce the plastic water bottle usage and waste because it just goes into the oceans,” said freshman Hannah Stutzke, 18, a social work major.

Another student agreed.

“All that was really explained to us was [that the ban would] conserve plastic so [water bottles weren’t] filling up landfills,” said sophomore Mike Gordiz, 19, a math and education double major.

Junior SEA representative Gabby Baldassari acknowledged this common misconception among students.

“[Students] know that water bottles are bad pollutants, but they see that there are plenty of other plastic bottles [on campus] so they don’t see what we have actually have accomplished,” said the 21-year-old environmental studies major.

The ban is a phased process, which is why many students may still see water bottles sold on campus.
Currently, water bottles are not sold at dining facilities, but can still be found in vending machines due to a contract with Coca-Cola that is separate from the school’s dining services. Once the contract is up for renewal, water bottles will be removed and the full effect of the ban will take place, according to Vecchio.

The next step of the water bottle “phase out” will occur in August 2013 and will remove water bottles from all vending machines on campus, Vecchio said.

“It’s so impressive to see how widely-utilized [the water bottle refill stations] are,” Vecchio said. “They are really convenient … [and] give you clean, filtered tap water.”

According to Baldassari, in order to show students there is no difference between bottled water and tap water, SEA will be holding “tap water challenges,” in which students compare the taste of both. The first challenge was Friday, Oct. 19. Two more will occur this semester in CSFU at dates to be determined.

In order to make the transition to a bottle-less campus easier for students, Vecchio says that SEA and USGA are continuing to collaborate with facilities to ensure that there will be refill stations in all new buildings, as well as continuing to install them in older buildings.
Director of Facilities Mike Jurewitch helped coordinate the installation of the refill stations across the campuses.

He explained that the cost of this part of the project is based on piping. In buildings where a refill station has been added onto an existing water line, it was cheaper, whereas in places where an entirely new line had to be installed, it was more expensive. The average price of an installation runs about $1,800 each, making the total cost of the project roughly $88,200, according to Jurewitch.

Maps of the current locations of water bottle refill stations can be found at luc.edu/sustainability.

 

by Melinda Bunnage
mbunnage@luc.edu

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