Water bottle initiative has fatal loophole

Winston Heckt, Staff Writer

Just like anyone else who gives a crap about the environment and human rights, I was glad to hear that starting Feb. 1, Augsburg would no longer reimburse organizations on campus for bottled water purchases as part of a larger effort to phase out all use of bottled water on campus. The Environmental Stewardship Committee promoted the hashtag #LoveLocalWater and published a weekly blog about the environmental and social impacts of bottled water all through January to gear up for the end of bottle reimbursement.
This is a great next step after convincing on-campus catering to eliminate bottled water last May, and the new policy will only have a greater impact as time goes by. However, we shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back just yet. The first time this new policy impacted my life firsthand was last Thursday. I am an RA, and I needed some beverages for a Housing Expo event I was throwing a few days later. The event included some vigorous exercise and so, having completely forgotten about the new policy, I asked my boss to pick me up a pack of bottled water only to be immediately struck down, which is great. What’s not so great is how easy it was to just work around the policy and get a pack of Gatorade bottles instead.
It is a little disheartening to know all the care, effort and planning put into the end of bottled water reimbursement has no effect on curbing the use and reimbursement of plastic bottles so long as they are filled with anything other than water. I don’t bring this up to minimize the importance of what has been done concerning plastic water bottles, but to point out that Augsburg is still funding the purchase of plastic bottles and the goal to make Augsburg green by 2019 is far from coming to fruition.
With a little less than a year to go, it seems to me there are still many areas that need to change if the campus will be totally green by the goal. Vending machines stocked full of plastic soda bottles are everywhere on campus, student organizations and Residence Life still fill bulletin boards with paper flyers and students still have access to as much printer paper as their hearts desire. I know it’s impossible to go from full bottled water use straight to no plastic bottles of any kind on campus, and I’m sure the Environmental Stewardship Committee is already working on the next step toward a green campus, but let’s not forget how far we still have to go.

This article first appeared in the Friday, February 9, 2018, Edition of The Echo.