- May 8, 2012
- 4:00 pm
Water bottle ban passes
Loyola students should add “reusable water bottle” to their packing lists for the 2012-13 school year.
Beginning in 2013, no plastic water bottles will be sold on campus, following a two year “UnCap Loyola” campaign, pioneered by the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) and the United Student Government Association (USGA). After two years of educational and advocacy efforts by these two groups, the student body voted in favor of the ban through a referendum on USGA election ballots this spring, and plastic water bottle sales will be phased out through the 2012-13 school year.
Alexandra Vecchio, a junior environmental studies and sociology major and president of SEA for 2012-13, has been working on the campaign for more than two years, and says what really pushed the issue into the forefront of her agenda is that bottled water is not just about environmental impact–it is also about social justice.
“It’s not about the plastic bottle,” she says. “Really it’s what is inside the bottle. That water is coming from a community water source…people are paying a corporation for what they already had access to.”
Vecchio says this aspect of bottled water came to light for her, and other members of SEA, two years ago at a water colloquium hosted by the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP) in April 2010. The students in SEA realized this was an issue they wanted to pursue and decided to start the UnCap campaign. After speaking with students at Seattle University, who banned bottled water on their campus in September 2010, they began hosting educational events around campus, from documentary film screenings to tap water challenges, and circulating a student petition to ban bottled water on campus (which garnered more than 900 signatures). At the same time, they began discussing this issue with the administration, and in spring 2011 found an ally in another student organization–USGA.
Julia Poirier, former chair of the justice committee and current president of USGA, says USGA had been discussing this issue for almost a year before they partnered with SEA, as they saw the UnCap Loyola movement grow. However, Poirier, who acted as the student link between SEA and USGA, says USGA was able to help in a more logistical way, working with administrators, facilities, and Aramark on how this plan could be implemented.
Robert Kelly, PhD, vice president of student development, was an administrator who played a big role in communicating with students on this issue. What convinced him and other administrators to jump on board was that the movement was largely student-driven, and demonstrated students were utilizing many tools to prove their point.
“They have had two really good years,” he says. “It was really the effort of the students to combine what they do in the class, and talking with other leaders from other campuses and finding out what was happening on the national scene. When we saw that, we decided we probably wanted to [support them]. They are integrating the academic, personal, and spiritual.”
However, the campaign was not without push back. Vecchio points out that people were confused as to why plastic soda bottles would not be included in a ban. She points out that this is where many students confuse this as a purely environmental issue, whereas their focus was on how the privatization of water is a social justice issue as well as an environmental problem. “Privatizing water fails to acknowledge that water is a public good,” she says. “When you lose access to that, people are losing access to their basic human right.” Another issue she says frequently came up, was that this would take away students’ right to choose if they wanted to buy bottled water or not. However, she pointed out that “Loyola has a mission statement that stands for certain ideals,” social justice being one of the main components of that mission. She says that by choosing to come to Loyola, students come in knowing these ideals. “You as an individual can make whatever choice you want,” but Loyola is an institution that has its own mission to uphold, she points out.
In USGA, Poirier says the concerns were more about how more of the student body would be able to be educated on these issues, so more people would understand the reasoning behind the decision. Despite these concerns, in December 2011 USGA passed an act to support the water bottle ban, and to put the issue to student vote as a referendum on USGA elections in March. During this time, SEA doubled their education efforts, devoting a Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) class to the issue and hosting World Water Week in early March. Finally in March 2012, students spoke: the referendum to ban plastic water bottle sales passed with 56 percent of the vote.
The ban will take place in two phases. The first phase will begin in fall 2012, with water bottles gone from dining halls and services, such as Rambler Room and Union Station, and the second phase will begin in spring 2013 with water bottles gone from vending machines.
However, the vote doesn’t signal the end of the UnCap efforts. In the future, Vecchio says SEA is going to continue their education efforts as they have in the past to help more students understand the nuances of the issue. She also says that every incoming freshman will be given a reusable water bottle, to ensure that every Loyola student has a reusable bottle to fill. On the USGA side, Poirier says they are hoping to work during the summer to address the logistics of ensuring students have access to water across Loyola’s campus. They are hoping to increase the number of water refill stations, ensure that water fountains are properly working, and implement more creative strategies, such as drop-off sites with drinking glasses. Currently, there are 35 refill stations between Loyola’s Water Tower and Lake Shore campuses.
Loyola joins more than 90 schools nationwide that have banned bottled water on campus, or are planning to do so. This announcement also comes on the heels of Loyola’s inclusion in The Princeton Review‘s 2012 Guide to 322 Green Colleges.