Student Sustainability Collective pushes for ban of plastic bottles
Written by Jackie Mora
Water is a natural resource that essentially belongs to the people and therefore they should have access to safe, clean and affordable water, yet so many Americans and the environment are paying greatly for it.
“This semester we are focusing on a campaign and it’s called “Take Back the Tap,” said Bev Eskew, president of the Student Sustainability Collective and campus coordinator for Food and Water Watch. “We are working with organizers to promote the use of tap water on campuses to decrease plastic waste and promote fair access to water.”
Eskew is currently working on this campaign with Rose Calderon, co-campus coordinator for Food and Water Watch. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to ban all plastic bottle use on campuses. Many of the sustainability club members are involved in the campaign.
“Take Back the Tap” is a national campaign started by Food and Water Watch, a non-profit organization whose mission is healthy food and clean water for all. They are working with students at colleges and universities across the United States to promote tap water over bottled water on their campuses.
Over 70 colleges and universities have passed full or partial bans on bottled water.
“During this drought every ounce of water counts,” Eskew said. “Just in the production of plastic, it consumes a lot. It’s very water intensive and very oil intensive. I think that’s also something that people aren’t aware of so it’s something that we feel people should know.”
According to Food and Water Watch.org, the average price for a gallon of tap water is less than half a penny – about 0.004 in 2012. When consumers pay for tap water, they are not necessarily purchasing the water itself. Instead, they are paying primarily for the service to get the water, treat it and send it to the faucet.
In comparison, the price for a 16.9 ounce bottle of water ranges from a dollar to $1.50. Using an average of $1.25, a gallon’s worth of 16.9 ounce bottled water would cost almost $9.50, which is nearly 2,400 times the price of tap water.
The website also presents the research that almost half of the bottled water sold today comes from municipal tap water supplies. When bottlers aren’t selling municipal water, they are pumping and selling common water resources that belong to the public.
Despite California’s water crisis with the historic drought, the bottled water industry has subtly made the piping of millions of gallons of water from national forests and selling it in a plastic bottle the norm.
In April, an article in “The Desert Sun” exposed the fact that Nestle Waters, the largest bottler of water in the world, is drawing millions of gallons of water a year from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired in 1988.
“They are paying only $524 per year for that water,” Eskew said. “It’s things like that the private water bottle companies I feel don’t have us in mind, they don’t have the people in mind. Water is a public resource that should be managed by the public not private companies – but that’s my personal point of view.”
Advocating for environmental issues to preserve the Earth and its resources are especially important to Eskew as a parent.
“I don’t want to see my son grow up in a world where people don’t care about the Earth. Where things are allowed to happen that are not in the interest of the people on the Earth, they’re in the interest of money,” Eskew said.
“I want him to live in a clean environment and I want him to be able to drink clean water. I want him to be able to eat clean food and not have to worry that there’s something that’s going to cut his life short.”
As part of their campaign the group is working with the Associated Students of Riverside City College to get a bylaw passed to prohibit the sale of bottled water on campus.
ASRCC Senator Aaron Moran advocates for environmentalists, veterans and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics majors on campus. Student demand and action are what both Moran and Eskew said are the first steps to creating an impact. He believes that colleges should be the most progressive part of society but is disappointed by the current state of student participation on campus.
“RCC is a dead campus and you can quote me on that, because that is my opinion. The amount of student involvement is so minimal that the college education here … doesn’t enrich and bring us together like it should as a campus,” Moran said.
Eskew said she would like to see more community engagement especially from students because she believes students have the ability to create lasting change.
“It just takes getting involved and actually doing instead of talking about it,” Eskew said.
“Right now we are going around to classes and talking with other student groups and clubs, asking them to sign a pledge to not purchase bottled water on campus but instead bring their own reusable bottle whatever kind that may be,” Eskew said. “A lot of people say ‘well there are reusable plastic bottles we can use’ and that’s definitely true and even that is better than the single use plastic bottles by far.”
The campaign members know that this isn’t an easy task and Eskew said that getting people to change their habits is the most challenging part of this proposition.
Funding is another barrier that clubs face. Every semester there is a finance committee that consists of ten people from the different branches of ASRCC that decide the budget for student programs, clubs and organizations.
Moran is on that committee and is aware of how much money is available to the clubs and where it goes. Clubs who are looking for funds will put in their requisition and give a presentation to the committee. They explain how they will spend every cent and if it is approved it will go to the senate to vote on for funding.
“I think more of the money needs to go to the budget for clubs. Right now with our allotment majority of the budget goes to athletics,” Moran said. “Our athletics is great, I’m not saying we should try and take anything from athletics but I do think that we need to balance the budget better.”
Since student senate can pass bylaws they are a crucial part of the success of a campaign or for obtaining funding for club goals.
“If you want faculty to back you, you have to show the faculty members that you’re serious. Clubs can’t just talk … they have to do something,” Moran said. “They have to be active and they have to be progressive and they have to think about what they need to do, but the most important thing- they have to do it. They have to do something.”