Alexandra Vecchio, Co-President of the Loyola Student Environmental Alliance, and Chief Sustainability Officer, for Loyola’s Unified Student Government Association, responded to the Tuesday Loyola Student Dispatch story which stated that some students believe the school’s ban on the sale of bottled water on campus has good intentions, but has not been implemented successfully.
Loyola stopped selling bottled water in its cafeterias and retail locations in the beginning of the fall semester as part of the school’s “UnCap Loyola” campaign, while continuing to allow the sale of bottled juice, soft drinks and specialty waters. The sale of water bottles in vending machines will be banned beginning in 2013.
Students passed a referendum proposal in March supporting the ban, which cites environmental concerns about the use of plastic bottles and awareness about providing fair access to drinking water globally.
But students and faculty question why bottled water is banned while the sale of soda and flavored water continues.
1.) Part of the commitment that was made when UnCap was discussed last Spring was that ongoing education and outreach would continue taking place with the student body.
The Office of Sustainability, WTC Life, and Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) co-sponsored a film screening of FLOW in September with a post film discussion which involved a guest speaker elaborating on water privatization and how the bottled water industry impacts global water access with respect to communities. These were promoted throughout our SEA listservs, social networking, put on Loyola screen advertising and we partnered with other organizations on campus. In addition, SEA is hosting 3 informational tables this semester, one of which is coming up this Friday in CFSU. Students are encouraged to come up and learn about the campaign, ask questions, and take part in an interactive activity where we conduct a blind taste test between tap water and bottled water.
Also, the Office of Sustainability shared information at the Wellness Fair two weeks about UnCap (our name for the bottled water ban) and how water quality is more highly regulated by municipal structures than privatized companies.
Finally, this past summer, the Office of Sustainability hosted a table at every new student orientation resource fair and shared information about a variety of projects: including the UnCap campaign. All of these students received literature on the history of the ban and its goals, a map of the refill stations on campus, and a reusable bottled on behalf of First Year Experience, as did students last year. This will continue during the 2013 orientation process as well.
Just to give you some background, this educational and outreach campaign began in April 2010, so it has been ongoing for quite some time. SEA regularly hosted informational outreach tables, film screenings, and guest speakers. In March 2012, a group of students from STEP:Water (a class on campus) hosted a week-long series of events educating the campus about water privatization. This week included petition signature collection, tap water challenges, a film screening of Tapped, reusable bottles were raffled off, and a guest speaker from Food and Water Watch came to speak to students.
All information, including a refill station map (we have almost 50 now between LSC & WTC) as well as an FAQ sheet, and background info. can all be found on the Office of Sustainability’s website. This information was also handed out at all freshman orientation tables. The refill maps are also located in campus stores. On the FAQ sheet, you will also find a list of links if you are interested in reading more information about bottled water from different sources.
This campaign was also highly publicized in the local news. Interviews were conducted by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Channel 7 News, Red Eye, WLUW, The Phoenix, and other campus news sources.
2.) I would really like to stress that this campaign was NOT trying to address the issue of plastic bottles on campus. While this is a cursory benefit, it was not the rationale behind the campaign. We always stress that this issue was addressing global access to water and the social justice implications of water as basic human right, not a commodity to be bought and sold.
I think part of the misconception came from the fact that SEA (an environmentally focused organization) was a leader in this campaign. SEA took interest in this topic for a variety of reasons, but the main purpose was definitely to address the issue of water privatization. As a Jesuit institution concerned with social justice, we felt that Loyola needed to be educated and informed about the justice issues with bottled water.
All that being said, I know students on this campus are concerned with the issue of plastic bottle use and waste, but there are no plans to expand the UnCap campaign into in all out ban of plastic bottles on campus. In fact, this would negate one of the main points of our campaign: you can get water from the tap, but not soda, juice, Gatorade, etc. This is the same reason why flavored water was not eliminated from campus. The UnCap campaign simply focused on the product that is viewed as a basic human right: access to clean and safe drinking water.
If Loyola ever did move to a plastic free campus, this would have to be from a completely different movement, educational campaign, etc. The only work we intend to continue doing around plastic on campus is expanding the visibility of and education surrounding the recycling program.
3.) This movement has had an extraordinarily positive impact on Loyola’s campus and community. Once students realize the issues around bottled water, they are often impressed that Loyola took such an active role on the issue. The fact that Loyola students will leave this campus aware of such an important social and global issue is truly significant. After leaving Loyola, we hope students are more informed and can leave an impact no matter what their professional career. This is a chance for Loyola students to truly live out the mission of this University and make a significant impact overall.
In addition, one of the benefits of this campaign is the large increase in water refilling stations across campus. These are very convenient for students, but also offer cold, filtered tap water. Unlike bottled water, tap water is highly regulated and often times healthier for you than what is supposedly advertised as “pristine” drinking water. Interestingly enough, 40% bottled water comes form a municipal source , meaning it is the same product as tap water, but you are paying much more for it. In order to be an educated consumer, individuals need to understand the issues around bottled water companies marketing campaigns.
Overall, our university’s collaborative effort to end the sale of bottle water benefits our student population by raising our awareness of the global social justice issues many of us must face once we leave this fine institution. This campaign sought to address the intellectual and conscientious needs of Loyola students and are very appropriate for the goals our university has for us as graduates who advocate for social justice.
Our goal right now is to encourage students to consume consciously and advocate these issues in life after Loyola.
Finally, here is the link to the all the information that has been mentioned was posted on the Office of Sustainability’s webpage.
We really hope that more news sources share this information with students. We really would like to see everyone playing an active role in participating in this campaign and sharing knowledge.
Chief Sustainability Officer, USGA