Going plastic-free with water bottles on campus

Graphic by: Lena Yang

Graphic by: Lena Yang

Last Wednesday saw the Ecohawks administer their Lug-a-Mug campaign on campus. The event, hosted in the Schlegel Centre atrium, was aimed at informing the Laurier community about the issues of disposable drinking mugs, as well as promoting the water filling stations found throughout the Laurier and Brantford campuses.

As part of the campaign, students were given the opportunity to win a reusable travel mug. Additionally, the Ecohawks on both campuses teamed up with their respective bookstores.

“The bookstores on both campuses were having a sale on reusable bottles and people could buy a tax-free reusable bottle at that time. It’s a multi-campus initiative,” explained Susie Turner, internal affairs executive for the Ecohawks.

The Lug-a-Mug campaign is a larger part of the water bottle phase-out plan that has been in development since last year.

“Starting last year, the plan is in the research and awareness process at the moment,” Turner said. “The Ecohawks have been compiling research from various other schools, doing research on sustainability practices, as well as exploring the benefits of going plastic water bottle free. From that, we have put together a proposal to give to the Students’ Union as well as the administrator of the university.”

Last week’s campaign was the official launch of the plan.

Turner said the idea for the initiative came from a variety of sources.

“It’s partially an idea to support the university in its sustainability initiative and identity, as well as bring greater awareness in an environment with so many people that are willing to listen and to learn.”

Turner referred to a poll university affairs and the Students’ Union sent out to students last year, which included a question about whether students supported a plastic water bottle free environment.

“From the 2,000 people who participated in the poll from both the Brantford and Waterloo campuses, 75 per cent were in support,” Turner said.

Speaking of the other 25 per cent who were not in favour of the initiative, Turner believes it represents the other side of the debate.

“This partially comes from students that are wary of not having the convenience of plastic bottles and from the uncertainty of whether tap water is safe enough to drink. There is the perception that bottled water is safer to drink.”

Stephanie Osborne, events executive for the Ecohawks, also sees students’ reluctance from the point of view of convenience.

“Some people think that if they don’t buy water, they will instead buy Coke or other drinks like that for the sake of expedience.”

Turner believes combating these views is a matter of awareness.

“It’s about making sure there is awareness among students about the realities of tap water versus bottled water. For example, most companies that sell water in plastic bottles do not test and regulate to the same extent that tap water is tested. It’s a matter of making knowledge like that known.”

The response for the Lug-a-Mug campaign, from the perspectives of Osborne and Turner, was successful in its outreach to the students.

“The students who came out on Wednesday seemed interested and in favour of the campaign we are trying to put forward,” Osborne said.

Turner added, “Far from over, the campaign is a part of a larger cultural change we want to happen in the next few years, in which we make students and faculty aware that the university is prepared to make the transition to a plastic water bottle free environment.”

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