By Mark Kobzik
In an effort to make UNH more sustainable, Choose 2 Reuse started a petition last semester that will seek to end the sale of single use water bottles on UNH campus. As of right now, this campaign only looks to ban water bottles, but negotiations with the administration and the student senate might also include soda bottles. So far the petition has received more than 1,600 signatures.
On the campaign’s petition website, it says that university and college campuses are the largest source of plastic waste in the U.S. The numbers on how much U.S. citizen’s waste plastic every year is well documented. According to Ecowatch.com, in just this country alone, 35 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away every year and plastic takes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to degrade. Fifty percent of the plastic gets used once and then thrown away. There are a lot of facts about how plastic is wasted in the U.S., and this campaign looks to change those numbers on the Durham campus.
UNH is currently in negotiations for next year’s contract with Coca-Cola. Since Coca-Cola sells these water, soda, and energy drinks the Choose 2 Reuse campaign is looking to change that aspect of the contract to eliminate the sale of water bottles. Coca-Cola gives the university money along with certain equipment for sports games and other events like University Day. Another aspect of this campaign would be to install more filtration and hydration stations around the university campus so water is easier to access.
Cameron Cook, president of the student body, and Ryan Grogan, vice president of the student body have been working with Choose 2 Reuse to help accomplish this plan. They put together a survey and so far the results have been positive. Of those surveyed, more than 50 percent replied that they would support a plastic water bottle ban.
To reach out to UNH students, Gianna Tempera, coordinator of Choose 2 Reuse and secretary of Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has been at the MUB with other members once a week trying to gage the thoughts of students on the subject of a plastic water bottle ban. Through trivia games, answering questions about plastic waste, and giving out mason jars, the Choose 2 Reuse team has made an effort to convert UNH against the use of plastic.
“Most of the students who we interact with are very supportive,” Tempera said. “They say that they are glad about we are trying to.”
“I think that banning water bottles can show how sustainable we are as a university,” Tempera said. “Banning water bottles is just another step in the right direction for UNH that has proven it’s willing to be sustainable.”
“Only a hand full of universities have successfully banned water bottles from their campus,” said Molly Belanger, a member of Choose 2 Reuse. “If we are successful, this would be a major accomplishment, which would hopefully have a snowball effect on other universities. I am an environmental planner and projects like these are the projects I want to be involved in for the rest of my life.
The vote for this ban will go to the student senate next semester. Whether this will be only water bottles has not been decided yet. As Coca-Cola and UNH figure out the contents of a new contract, the water bottle ban will mean significant changes. If a resolution passes the student senate, the administration will take the next step in the decision making process.