Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Take Back the Tap day of action

Yesterday we worked to Take Back the Tap at Penn State. We were one of about eleven colleges and universities working with Food and Water Watch to achieve bottle-free campuses. According to a Food and Water Watch press release yesterday,

“Food & Water Watch is delighted to collaborate with these schools to help them get the word out that bottled water is a waste of money and natural resources, and a blight on the environment,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The Campus Day of Action is significant in that it connects the individual efforts of each student group to a broader movement, and illustrates that resistance to bottled water is not only a local issue, but a full-fledged, national trend.”

Institutions participating in Food & Water Watch’s Campus Day of Action included: American University, Arizona State University, Chico State University, Cornell University, Duke University, Humboldt State University, Northern Arizona University, Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Washington. While activities to promote the day of action varied, highlights included the installation of bottle-free water stations, tap water versus bottled water taste tests, drives to eliminate bottled water from campuses, and screenings of the documentary films Blue Gold and FLOW: For Love of Water.

In some cases, activism extended beyond campus to the broader community. Such was the case at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, where students appealed to local administrators to ban the purchase of bottled water with municipal funds.

On Monday evening I (Peter Buckland - president of 3E-COE) briefly spoke at the State College Borough Council meeting asking them to consider eliminating their purchase of bottled water with municipal funds. I justified it to them as part of their commitment to be a Climate Protection Community in their Resolution 944. They were polite. Though I can't speak too strongly, State College mayoral candidate Elizabeth Goreham has indicated that she is in favor of this idea. One audience member spoke to me afterward and said that "I couldn't agree with you more about what you said." Our goal is in the public consciousness.

Last night we also screened Blue Gold: World Water Wars for a crowd of about 50. The film went over quite well and we had a discussion afterward led by Prof. Robert Brooks (Geography and the Cooperative Wetlands Center) and Lydia Vandenberg (Sustainability Officer at the Office of Physical Plant). People in the audience were particularly interested in how Penn State can continue to be a more water-efficient institution in all of its aspects - from curriculum to operations to consumption.

They were asked about what future teachers could do. We can ally ourselves with knowledgeable people. We can change our habits. Dr. Brooks, quoting the movie said, "You can simply ask questions." Ms. Vandenberg agreed and encouraged people to look into the life cycle of their products and proceeded to walk the audience through the hidden water and petroleum costs of water bottle fabrication.

As current and future teachers, I think the film provided a kind of educative experience that John Dewey would approve of. It looked to the past and asked us to perform an intelligent and critical inquiry and it then offered us the hope for meaningful experiences in the future about which we could further reflect. Best of, it called upon our personal and collective moral agency. Finally, we hoped to foster within those present a sense that we are not just pecuniary agents for a market economy, but rather individuals with profound senses of the good, the beautiful, and the wise. Bottled water and its side effects are neither good, nor beautiful, nor wise.

What about our local press? The Daily Collegian covered us. What did we say?

The average American drinks 224 bottles of water at a typical price of $1.50 per 16 ounces, the group said. By switching to tap water, which costs $.002 per gallon, consumers can save $335.55 per year, said 3E-COE member Kevin May (freshman-film).

"For Penn State in particular, it isn't so bad, but what you find is that we have a 53 percent recycling rate," said 3E-COE President Peter Buckland (graduate-educational theory and policy). "That is really good by national standards, but still -- more than 40 percent is going to landfills. It's unintelligent and sort of immoral."

Rhianna Stockbridge (sophomore-secondary education) a member of 3E-COE, said most students don't realize what they have at Penn State.

"At Penn State, there is clean drinking water in the toilets on campus, and other countries don't even have drinking water," she said. "It's not a matter of convenience to spend over $300 a year on bottled water."

Yes, we want Penn State to cease its contract with Pepsi for the sale of Aquafina here. And yesterday we talked to a lot of people and collected lots of signatures asking the university to do just that.
We the undersigned believe that Penn State should cease buying and selling single-use plastic water bottles immediately. The detrimental costs associated with single-use bottles are numerous.

Single-use plastic water bottles contribute to solid waste pollution when they aren’t recycled; they contribute to climate change in all parts of their lifecycle from fabrication, to distribution, to disposal; they needlessly transform a public resource into a for-profit venture at an exorbitant rate – hundreds or thousands of times the price of municipal water. Finally, the EPA’s standards on municipal drinking water are more stringent than those of the FDA which regulate bottled water.

Continuing to carry single-use plastic bottles is socially and personally irresponsible. As people drinking water from the Spring Creek watershed we urge you to cease the Aquafina contract with Pepsi and move us bottle free!!!
If you are a Penn State student, faculty, or staff who is interested in signing a petition, contact one of the blog authors or go to the HUB on a Friday. Our brother/sister group, Eco-Action has them at their table on the ground floor. Help us Take Back the Tap!

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