University News

Task force aims at eliminating bottles

By
Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010

A resolution of support from President Ruth Simmons and the Brown University Community Council has strengthened efforts behind the Beyond the Bottle Campaign, a student group seeking to reduce the University’s use of bottled water. The Task Force on Bottled Water at Brown was subsequently created to address the issue, according to group leaders.

The resolution was made during the Nov. 17 BUCC meeting following a presentation by Beyond the Bottle. It called for Brown Dining Services, students, faculty and staff to turn to “sustainable alternatives to one-use bottles.”

Though the implication of the resolution was “mostly symbolic,” it still brought awareness and support to the cause, group member Ari Rubenstein ’11 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

“We had been working really hard for almost a year at that point, and it just felt so amazing. I was ecstatic,” said Ben Howard ’11, one of the founding members of the Beyond the Bottle Campaign and now a member of the task force.

After the passage of the resolution, the group worked quickly to form the task force, which includes six student members from Beyond the Bottle as well as representatives from Facilities Management, Dining Services, the University Events Office, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the Office of Residential Life, the Purchasing Department and Alumni Relations, Rubenstein wrote.

The task force, chaired by Facilities Management’s Director of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Initiatives Chris Powell, has only had one meeting since its formation, but members are excited to resume their campaign.

“Although the task force hasn’t set a timeline yet, we hope to make significant changes happen very quickly and work towards the complete elimination of bottled water distribution on campus,” Rubenstein wrote.

There are some roadblocks to that goal, however. “There are some factors that might require a small supply of bottled water on campus,” like an emergency situation in which water supply is disrupted, Howard said.

Additionally, bottled water is a popular and profitable item in eateries like Josiah’s. But Dining Services “has been amazingly supportive and very much involved in movement” despite the potential loss of revenue, Howard said.

In fact, Little Jo’s now offers reusable metal bottles for $7, Howard said. Dining Services also recently told the group they had canceled one of their contracts for bottled water, he said.

The program seems to be making a difference. In the year that the Beyond the Bottle Campaign has been active, the University’s annual bottle consumption dropped significantly ­— as a result of the campaign, about 40,000 fewer bottles were consumed, Howard said.

The student body has been very supportive, Howard added.

“I have to say that I’ve been surprised by how little resistance the campaign has received from the student body. We’ve used a model of person-to-person outreach that has proven very effective,” Rubenstein wrote.

Brown is not the only school making changes. Washington University in St. Louis and Belmont University of Nashville instituted bans on bottled water last year.

Howard is optimistic that the University can achieve something similar. “We are shooting to be the first of the Ivies to take this step towards sustainability and social consciousness about water rights as an issue of the new century.”