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Initiative looks to remove bottled water

Photo by Jeremy Leong, staff photographer

This week, Drake University students have the opportunity to support a movement that aims to eliminate the sale of bottled water on campus.

“F Bottled Water,” or FBW, is a project intended to make Drake a greener campus by eliminating bottled water and providing students with reusable water bottles. It was started by students in the leadership concentration capstone course as a semester-long project.

“We were looking for something that would benefit the campus, push the campus in a positive direction and have an impact,” said Scott Morrett, a P1 student in the class.

Students involved in FBW have been in the Olmsted Breezeway all week to promote and gather support for the movement.

Monday was “Blitz Day,” which intended to raise awareness of the impacts of bottled water. Tuesday featured a water taste test, where students could compare bottled water with Des Moines tap water. Wednesday evening, the documentary “Tapped,” which investigates the bottled water industry, was shown at Pomerantz Stage. Today, students who pledge to support the cause can receive a free reusable bottle if they trade in a plastic one.

Allie Quinn, a junior working for FBW said Drake is one of the last “bigger” schools in Iowa to start this sort of initiative. Grinnell College has already eliminated bottled water, and Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa are in the process of doing so.

“If all these other schools are doing it, Drake should be right up there with them, showing we have student leaders wanting to cause change,” Quinn said.

Many students and faculty are behind FBW and think it is a big step in the right direction for Drake. Student Body President Amanda Laurent, who is part of the capstone class, talked to President David Maxwell about the movement.

“He thinks it’s a great idea and thinks all colleges will move to this eventually, so we should be a leader,” Laurent said.

Over 40 other Drake organizations are also supporting FBW, including the Drake Environmental Activists League and the Drake Sustainability Committee.

Almost $1,000 of funding was provided as well, with $349 coming from the Student Fees Allocation Committee and $615 coming from the Leadership Concentration.

Even with support, there are many technical challenges to making such a drastic change. Sodexo would have the final say in pulling bottled water from the shelves, so it was important for the students running FBW to make sure Sodexo supported the move.

According to Quinn, Sodexo was very supportive of the idea and would be willing to make changes if there is enough student support.

To make reusable water bottles a feasible option, there also need to be more refilling stations, which cost between $1,100 and $1,500. Currently there are three of these on Drake’s campus (Bell Center, Cowles Library and Underground Fitness), and they are being monitored to see how much students use them.

Another obstacle is the concession stands. According to Quinn, bottled water is the most sold item at athletic events, so concessions may be unwilling to remove it as an option.

Not all students are in favor of the FBW initiative.

Senior marketing and management double major, Nate Bleadorn, believes that it is impractical to completely eliminate bottled water.

“There’s times when people just need a bottle of water,” Bleadorn said. “Even if you use a refillable one, sometimes you just need to grab a bottled water.”

Yvette Mitchell, a P1, is also concerned about completely eliminating bottled water as an option.

“I think that it’s a very admirable cause, but I live off campus, so if I forget my reusable bottle at home, I enjoy being able to buy a bottle in Olmsted on my way to class,” Mitchell said.

Morrett admits that eliminating water bottles may sometimes cause an inconvenience but believes the effects of bottled water on the environment are not worth the convenience it offers. Morrett thinks that people feel entitled to having bottled water because it’s a convenience they’ve grown up with.

“If we take away bottled water, people can go back to doing what they did for thousands of years before: drinking out of something else,” Morrett said.

One factor that should not prevent students from supporting FBW is the cleanliness of bottled water versus tap water. In 2008, Forbes ranked Des Moines the No. 1 city for clean drinking water. In tests done by Des Moines Water Works, several bottled waters came back with higher E. coli counts than tap water.

Eliminating bottled water will more likely be a gradual process than an overnight decision. With all the logistical challenges and opposing opinions that must be overcome, it is unlikely that Drake will be bottled-water-free this semester. However, according to Quinn, that is not necessarily the point.

“It’s not really plausible to say that it would happen this semester. Our goal for this semester was to get the buzz going so that next semester we could see more change. It’s only a semester-long class but we’re not just going to stop the mission,” Quinn said.

For more information on the F–k Bottled Water movement, visit their website, www.DrakeFBW.com, or follow @DrakeFBW on Twitter.

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