Beyond the Bottle, a student group founded last spring, has helped reduce the use of bottled water on campus and has high hopes for its conservation projects, according to the group's organizers.
Brown Dining Services told the group that it observed a 35 to 40 percent drop in water bottle sales at the end of the spring semester, said group member Jason Harris '10.
The group aims to reduce and ultimately eliminate the consumption of bottled water on campus, said group leader Ari Rubenstein '11, because its members believe that bottled water "gets an F" on at least four criteria: "health, economics, environmental and social." To illustrate, Harris said, bottled water is tested less rigorously than tap water, costs more and wastes a lot of plastic.
Helping the environment can often be expensive, Harris said, but avoiding bottled water is free.
"It seems so wasteful to buy bottled water," he said. "Rhode Island water is very good."
The group's first big push came in the form of a "pilot phase" at Josiah's in April.
In collaboration with Jo's managers, the group made information available in Little Jo's and sold over 300 reusable metal water bottles for five flex points each.
That project "went really well," Rubenstein said. "We were all pretty pleased."
The University has responded positively to Beyond the Bottle's efforts thus far, Rubenstein added. "Dining services last semester was really great," he said.
The group is preparing to present information about bottled water on campus to the Brown University Community Council next month. It also plans to hold taste tests, host a movie screening and recruit students to pledge not to buy bottled water.
The group is also examining the availability of tap water in major buildings on campus.
Over the course of the next year, group members hope to encourage the University to give students more — and more visible — places to fill water bottles with tap water around campus, Rubenstein said.
The group is optimistic it can make big strides, Harris said.
To aid the group's efforts, students can buy a reusable water bottle and seek to educate their friends who regularly purchase bottled water, Harris said. "We need people to individually have that collective consciousness," he said.
The elimination of bottled water is an attainable goal, both Rubenstein and Harris said. A few universities have completely stopped selling bottled water on campus, they said, such as Washington University in St. Louis. The group hopes Brown will soon follow suit.
Brown has "a real opportunity to be one of the first Ivy League universities to take the step," Rubenstein said.