Students push for bottle ban

The Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP), an environmental awareness and action club, is challenging students to go a day without buying a water bottle.All day Wednesday, the Marché, Alice’s, the Marketplace and CATS Pause will not be selling bottled water.Instead, VSTEP will offer reusable metal water bottles for a donation of $1 to show students an alternative to purchasing water.”We want students to realize the social and ecological impact of one bottle of water,” Co-President of VSTEP Marlee Baron said.VSTEP will be circulating petitions at these locations in an attempt to ultimately ban the sale of bottled water from campus completely.This campaign has been successful at Brandeis University, Washington University in St. Louis and numerous university campuses in Canada, Baron said.Like UVM, WashU has a contract with Coca-Cola, however they have elected to stop ordering bottled water.On average, UVM convenience stores sell 800 bottles of water a day, Baron said.Sophomore Amara Forgues frequently contributes to this number.”I only drink bottled water because the water in my dorm is disgusting and does not taste good,” Forgues said. “It is so convenient to have bottles of water in my fridge that are already cold, and I recycle them so I feel better about it.”According to VSTEP, only 23 percent of water bottles get recycled. Of this 23 percent, 40 percent go to China, where they are made into materials that are not recyclable.”It is turned into cheap carpeting, shoes and clothes — all of these things we are getting from China, are actually made from these water bottles and all of that stuff is just thrown away at the end because you can’t recycle them,” Baron said.Furthermore, VSTEP is concerned that students do not realize that they are paying for tap water.This bottled water comes from the same place as your tap water, Emilyn Fox, co-president of VSTEP, said.”When bottling companies take water, they are just taking it from a public water source and selling it back to the same people,” Fox said.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), responsible for testing tap water, ensures that the water is tested daily and held to high standards, Fox said.Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tested less frequently and held to much lower guidelines, she said.Freshman Andrea Rhoads supports the cause but said her habits are based on convenience.”I do use a reusable bottle when I can, but sometimes I forget, and, in an effort to stay healthy, I do like to purchase water,” Rhoads said.”We are facing so many grave problems, and we will need people to initiate change,” Baron said.”If changing things means making the commitment to bring your own bottle, yes, it is another thing you have to remember, but it is not such a huge burden to put on somebody.”VSTEP hopes to get enough signatures on the petition supporting the ban to submit it to the administration.”We think the school should take on [the ban] to show its commitment to the world as a leading environmental university,” Baron said.