Bottled water is getting the boot, from New York...
When NYU student Josi Riederer first heard about Food & Water Watch’s Take Back the Tap campaign, the need was clear. New York City’s tap water is known to be some of the best in the world. So why was the New York University campus, in the middle of Manhattan, still so committed to using bottled water? “It just didn’t make any sense,” said Riederer. Riederer is part a generation of young people that are critical of bottled water’s impact on society. Between the fossil fuels used to produce the plastic bottles and the fact that bottled water is mostly just tap water that costs nearly 2,400 times as much, young people see the wisdom in ditching bottled water.
Students at NYU have been fighting to Take Back the Tap since 2009, when members of NYU’s Earth Matters club launched the NYU Take Back the Tap campaign. Shortly thereafter, NYU Take Back the Tap got campus administration to exclude bottled water from meal plans for on-campus dining facilities. Since then, Take Back the Tap students have been pushing NYU to reduce bottled water use and expand access to water fill stations.
Recently, NYU students landed another victory, as NYU announced plans to move away from bottled water. On February 14, NYU President Hamilton went public with its “bottle ban” policy, which declares that as of January 1, 2020, NYU will halt spending on all single-use plastic water bottles. Follow-up emails with university administrators clarified that this meant bottled water will no longer be purchased by the university for events, and water coolers that use 5- and 10-gallon jugs will be replaced with in-line filtered water coolers.
It’s not just the big private university in New York moving away from bottled water. A few weeks ago, the Board of Trustees for the California State University (CSU) system announced that all 23 of its campuses would phase out all single-use plastics by 2023, including bottled water, plastic bags, and even plastic straws.
Similar to NYU, Cal State students have been agitating for an end to bottled water for years. Back in 2011, Take Back the Tap student activists made Humboldt State University the first CSU campus to go completely, 100% bottled water-free. Humboldt State was the first public university in California to get rid of bottled water, and only the third nationwide.
Kylee Singh, one of the Humboldt State University Take Back the Tap organizers, remembers this victory. “It’s so great to know that the hard work we put in nearly 10 years ago at HSU has made a lasting impact,” said Singh. “And not only at our alma mater, but now across the 23 CSU campuses!”
Over the past 9 years, Take Back the Tap students have been organizing on 11 different campuses to bring that change to their campus. “We’re obviously very excited,” said Nicholas Priddy, Take Back the Tap activist at California State University at Northridge. “Students and faculty have been fighting plastic bottles for years.”
But do these changes go far enough?
While students at NYU and Cal State schools are celebrating these announcements, concerns remain about how these new policies will be implemented. At NYU, Take Back the Tap student organizer Angela Scafidi has already been hearing more and more about loopholes in the new “bottle ban”. “We're very happy that NYU is finally taking a step towards solving our plastic waste problem," said Scafidi. “However, bottled water will still be sold in vending machines and in our campus grocery store, and NYU is still maintaining its contract with Coca-Cola. This really isn’t a bottle ban."
And at CSU campuses, students are calling for quicker changes. “2023 is a long way off,” said Michelle Allen, another Take Back the Tap activist at Cal State Northridge. “We want Northridge to show the rest of the CSU’s that banning the bottle can happen now.”
With these changes in the works, student activists can taste victory, even if ultimate victory isn’t yet in their grasp.
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