When thinking of a campus area, smoke-free or drug-free areas may come to mind; and now schools all over the country, including Keene State College, are trying to switch to be a plastic-water-bottle-free campus.

The issue with plastic water bottles is that a lot of companies re-bottle tap water and then sell it to people, said Kelly Marchione, KSC senior and Campus Ecology member. Campus Ecology even goes around and shows this to some of the residents in residential halls, mostly first-year students, by doing a “water chasing.”

“We have bottled water, tap water and Brita filtered water, and we have them unmarked and have people taste the difference. Usually they can’t tell the difference, showing tap doesn’t taste that bad,” Marchione said.

The club is also behind all the water fountains around campus with a spout to refill water bottles, she said.

The fountain also has an electric counter that keeps track of how many full water bottles aren’t being used because students chose to reduce and reuse. She said they’ve been springing up around campus and she thinks KSC does well with using reusable water bottles.

Photo Illustration by Haley Erdbrink / Equinox Staff

Photo Illustration by Haley Erdbrink / Equinox Staff

Marchione said eco reps are doing this new promotion in the student center, where if they see someone with a reusable water bottle, they’ll give them a green buck. Students can use these bucks at Bean and Bagel, or Lloyd’s, and she hopes it gives students the incentive to want to use reusable water bottles around campus more.

The dangers of using plastic bottles is when they sit in the heat, Marchione said. She said what happens is the chemicals can leak into the water from the plastic. She said this also becomes a big problem for small fish that feed off of plankton, because those plastics float around in the ocean. The fish are dying, and birds are eating the fish and they’re getting bellies full of plastic too, Marchione explained.

Other groups on campus are focusing on water as well. Professor Nicole Wengerd focuses on environmental sociology in her Global Social Problems class. She said an overview of the course right now is focusing on water, local perspectives in the United States, along with the global scale and issues of precipitation and water scarcity.

“All semester we talk about these crises that are going on around the world and it can be a downer, so I wanted students to have an opportunity to do something, and feel like they can make a difference. That’s what drove this idea. It’s a five-week project and it ends in week seven with a presentation. There are four to five students in each group and each week they have a topic, which they have to brainstorm, and then actually implement it on campus. The whole campaign is about making it a water -bottle-free campus,” Wengerd explained.

Wengerd also said the students have been looking at numbers such as only one in five bottles are actually recycled. Wengerd claimed on average, out of 167 Americans only 38 of them recycle and that overall, water bottles cost 1000 times more than tap water. Wengerd plans for the students to raise awareness on campus and get this information out there.

“I think something we often forget is the reduce, reuse, recycle, and we often forget the first two and we just skip to the, ‘Oh I’ll use plastic and then recycle.’ There are two steps before that. Reduce—reduce our dependency on water bottles. Water is free but it does take planning to have your own reusable water bottle,” Wengerd said.

Wengerd made the second part of the project focus on figuring out how to reduce the amount of water bottles, vending machines and eliminate water bottles from school. She said students are thinking about how they can make it more convenient to refill water bottles on campus. Having enough water stations on campus is important Wengerd said, and her students have to brainstorm ways to make that happen.

“It’s more complicated than just saying we’ll stop selling water bottles,” she said.

Wengerd said the  goal is to add a social component change.

She said she wants to let the students have a voice in an environmental issue, and also for them to understand the complexity of the issue and how social life is tied to it. The third part of the project is to expand to the community, Wengerd said.

KSC is a supportive community member, but who are the allies, businesses, or local organizations that would be supportive of this idea is a question she asked her students. She said these campaigns would need a lot of support. She also added students would hold interviews and then put a final presentation together.

According to Wengerd the students had a great response to the project. She has 40 students in each class, and she hopes that once they’ve presented students that want to move forward with it, will.

Taylor Boone, a KSC junior, is in the Global Social Problems class and she mentioned Professor Wengerd can be inspiring.

“She does all sorts of environmental conscious things…I actually took this class because she was recommended,” Boone said.

Boone said she doesn’t buy plastic water bottles because she doesn’t want to have to pay for them, but she’s been telling more people about the reusable water bottles.

She said she watched a documentary in the class called “Tapped,” which was very eye- opening to her. Boone stated it talked about how all around, it’s not good to buy water bottles, because of the toxins in the plastic.

Mary Jensen, Campus Sustainability Officer, said her hope would be if students were buying plastic water bottles that they would educate themselves on where it comes from. When finished with the bottle, she said that it is very important to recycle them. “Plastic is made from oil. It shouldn’t be used and thrown away easily,” Jensen said.

Jensen encourages students to get involved with their ideals and to join Fair Trade Club, Campus Ecology, or even get involved with discussions in the global club. She said she thinks KSC has come along way, and is doing a good job, but there is always room for improvement.

Wengerd agreed and thinks any campus can always do more. She thinks KSC will respond to the student’s voices if they said “we want this,” she said it just takes some initiatives and someone to keep the momentum going.


Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at bricciardi@keene-equinox.com

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