Water – Take Back the Tap
Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) is a private 4-year university with 3,650 students in Tacoma, Washington.
In this project, the student group GREAN distributed 1,008 Nalgene® BPA-free water bottles throughout their campus in an effort to discourage the use and sales of bottled water. Washington State has some of the best tap water in the nation, and bottled water is expensive, wasteful and unsustainable in comparison. Grass Roots Environment Action Now (GREAN) was supported by the administration at Pacific Lutheran University. The over $7,000 used to purchase the Nalgene® bottles was sourced from a portion of a campus green fee. Nalgenes® were designed with the Take Back the Tap logo and sold to students for a nominal fee of $1. The fee was enforced as a way to increase ownership in bottle purchasers and therefore increase their usage. Those who purchased a bottle were asked to sign a pledge to give up bottled water as part of their purchase. Facilities Management complemented the program by installing 8 Gooseneck faucets onto drinking fountains. The project reduced the number of disposable water bottles on campus that needed to be recycled and produced using manufacturing or remanufacturing energy usage, and campus dining reported a 30 percent decrease in sales from previous months.
GOALS AND OUTCOMES
The students hoped to reduce the amount of plastic bottles that went to recycling centers, or worse, landfills. By providing students with a reusable bottle so they could do this without burdening their own wallets even though reusable water bottles are cheaper in the long run. Two measurements were used to gauge success of the program: 1) counting water bottles from recycling and garbage bins, 2) counting the number of water bottles sold in vending machines and the number sold in the on-campus markets. Eventually, GREAN envisions a bottled water free campus, but is concerned with the readily available alternative being soda. Each year we would like to sell more water bottles to new students to keep the
campaign going. New buildings will be required to have gooseneck faucets installed on fountains for easy refilling, with current buildings being retrofitted as possible.
Accomplishments and Outcomes
Environmental Services collected recycled water bottles and weighed them for one week before and after the project was launched. While there was not a significant weight difference from before to after the kick off, there were contributing facts to alter the after weight facts. There were many events that included many people from off campus for seminars and athletic games that were not present during the pre take back the tap event.
However, the University Commons sales report from our water bottles and soft drink provider showed a significant reduction of 30 percent purchased bottled water. It is also noteworthy to mention the lack of Take Back the Tap Nalgenes® in the end of the year Residential Hall move out recycling collection and trash containers. This suggests that students kept their Nalgenes® for long-term use. Infrastructure changes were made to 7 water fountains on campus with an 8th one in progress. The changes included adding water filters and gooseneck faucets to make them into “filtered water, bottle refill stations.”
Challenges and Responses
It was difficult to recruit enough volunteers to sell the bottles for an extended period of time of campus. Another challenge was accounting for all of the bottles sold. GREAN had people sign a pledge to reduce disposable bottle use, increase reusable water use, and be more conscious of the water they use. It was difficult to monitor that every person who signed the pledge only received one bottle. Campus Climate Action: Your School’s Carbon Footprint We indirectly addressed climate change through fact sheets that were given to people who bought bottles. Some facts showed that reusable bottles reduced waste going to landfills and CO2 emissions from making the bottles.
Commentary and Reflection
The student body was hesitant at first to fully embrace the added green fee to their tuition dollars. The Take Back the Tap project was framed as a way for them to save money. By refilling their Take Back the Tap Nalgene® bottle 16 times, they could save the cost of their bottle and green energy initiative fees.
ENGAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
Leaders and Supporters
GREAN worked to implement the student green fees. The PLU Sustainability Committee oversees the green fee money. Student leaders on the Sustainability Committee executed the project:
Eric Pfaff – Sustainability Fellow
Kristi Riedel – ASPLU Sustainability Director
Emily Tollefson – RHA Sustainability and Diversity Director
Monika Maier – GREAN Co-President
Becca Krzmarzick – GREAN Co-President/Sustainability Fellow
Brian Naasz – Professor of Chemistry/ Chair of Sustainability Committee
Lyle Kendall – Project Coordinator, Facilities Management
Funding and Resources
GREAN had previously circulated a petition to increase tuition by $20 to pay for a renewable energy source in the halls. When over 1,100 signatures were gathered the resolution was then introduced to ASPLU and accepted. From there it went to the board of Regents and passed in 2008. The money was to be used to purchase “green tags” also known as “renewable energy credits” and energy conservation implementation projects on campus with 80 percent of the fund. The remaining 20 percent was to be distributed to student projects that enhanced sustainability on campus. This year the students on the Sustainability Committee put together a conservation-related project, using a portion of the remaining 20 percent green fee funds. The bottles cost $7 apiece, $7056 in total. Time and poster supplies were donated by GREAN.
Education and Community Outreach
Students put up posters with water bottle and water usage facts. Every person that bought a bottle also got a fact sheet. This project targeted the campus community.
Dave Kohler – Director of Facilities Management – firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Cooley – Sustainability Resources Coordinator – email@example.com
Brian Naasz – Professor of Chemistry/ Chair of Sustainability Committee – firstname.lastname@example.org
Becca Krzmarzick – GREAN Co-President/Sustainability Fellow – email@example.com
Case study submitted by:
Environmental Services/SurPLUs Coordinator
Sustainability Resources Coordinator
Direct Phone: 253- 535- 6060
MORE ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL
Campus Sustainability History
The most visible, but certainly not the first, sign of PLU’s leadership came when President Loren Anderson signed the Talloires Declaration on Earth Day 2004. “The sustainability movement had been gaining ground at PLU for years, and it was time we committed to promoting sustainability on campus,” Anderson said. Some of the prime examples of the ground gained has been PLU’s outstanding 71 percent diversion rate of waste to be land-filled, including composting as a waste stream. Faculty and staff are given 1 liter trash cans to discourage waste as part of “Can the Can”. PLU’s last 2 buildings have been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold and LEED Silver. Cleaning Services uses
only Green Seal cleaning products, and other green products are integrated through campus operations. Environmental Health and Safety offers a transit pass benefit to encourage employees and students to use mass transit, like the bus or train, instead of driving their own car. Benefits are also available to those who carpool, ride a bike or simply arrange to work from home periodically – anything that will reduce the number of cars on the road. PLU is working towards a carbon neutral way of life, a full listing of efforts can be found at: http://www.plu.edu/~sustain/.