Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (IDEAS) for Binghamton started a petition last week to bolster student support for their initiative to ban the sale and distribution of plastic water bottles on campus.
According to IDEAS President Devon Gingrich, the petition is part of Take Back the Tap — a nationwide campaign headed by Food and Water Watch, a national nongovernmental organization.
“We started this campaign as a way to bring back this essential human resource into the public hands of the students,” said Gingrich, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies.
Gingrich said that although Binghamton University has made strides to be a “green” campus, which has yielded significant changes, there is still room for improvement.
She said BU could gain a lot of respect by banning bottled water from its campus, solidifying its role as an environmentally conscious university.
“We could be among the first campuses nationwide to accomplish such an impressive feat and I would love to see our university at the forefront of sustainable solutions for our future,” Gingrich said.
According to Sara Alpert, a member of IDEAS and a senior majoring in psychology, the group has 244 signatures on their petition, but they want 500 signatures by the start of the spring semester.
IDEAS members plan to give the petition to University President Harvey Stenger to show him the strong student backing to ban water bottles.
“This will give us just the start of the support we need to carry out our initiatives,” Alpert said. “Our first major goal is to set up a situation at our University that will allow for the reduction of water bottles.”
About 70 percent of bottled water is not inspected by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and about 40 percent of bottled water is taken from municipal sources, making it essentially no different from drinking from the tap, according to Gingrich.
Gingrich also said that only one in five bottles are recycled, meaning the majority contribute to about 1.5 million tons of plastic each year and about 30 million bottles a day that end up in landfills or oceans.
In addition to raising awareness, Gingrich said that IDEAS hopes to make drinking tap water as accessible and easy as possible for students.
“We also want to add filling stations to main student areas like the Lecture Hall, Library and Union,” Gingrich said. “If these stations are widely available, we hope that students will have less of a reason to buy a bottle of water when a free source is easily available.”
Gingrich said she believes it is wrong for worldwide corporations to privatize municipal water sources.
“This is taking water away from these local communities, exploiting their resources, and in many cases around the world, denying people access to water,” Gingrich said. “This is the driving force of our campaign to take back the tap.”
She said she realizes students are busy and that buying disposable water bottles is convenient, but by making a small change, students can make a huge impact.
“I really do believe that this campaign is extremely important to our University as a whole,” Gingrich said. “This is a change that Binghamton can make that will distinguish it from other universities, and demonstrate its ability to not only care for the environment, but for the future of our planet and its citizens.”
Peter Knuepfer, director of the environmental studies department, said he supports the principle that the Take Back the Tap petition represents.
“Bottled water is, quite simply, a waste of resources and an extraordinary waste of money for the consumer,” Knuepfer wrote in an email. “Thus, getting rid of bottled water from vending machines, etc., is sensible for both the pocketbook and the environment.”