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Students Go against the Flow to Take Back the Tap

Each bottle in the water bottle curtain cost between $0.12 and $5.00. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Each bottle in the water bottle curtain cost between $0.12 and $5.00. (Photo by Dave Chase)

This semester, the students of St. Mary’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) are running the “Take Back the Tap” campaign in order to raise awareness about the problems associated with bottled water. The campaign goal is to eventually remove bottled water from the College campus store, the Daily Grind, and the Green Bean.

To kick off the campaign, SEAC hosted a screening of Flow on Oct. 14 in Cole Cinema as part of the National Day of Action. “Flow,” directed by Irena Salina, is a documentary that seeks to determine whether anyone ought to own water. “Flow” explores the “World Water Crisis” and, according to the movie’s Web site, “builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.”

In the days following the screening, SEAC members tabled in the campus center, asking students to sign a petition to get the Daily Grind to stop selling bottled water. With a “water bottle curtain” made of 136 salvaged water bottles (some pulled from recycling bins) hanging behind them, SEAC members spouted facts about bottled water to students heading to and from the Great Room. Coupons for 20 percent of reusable water bottles from the campus store were available for those who signed the petition.

SEAC also placed flyers across campus in many of the residence halls announcing the campaign. The flyers contained facts on bottled water and pointed out that although it may be more convenient to grab a bottle, the negative impacts of bottled water include taking water from communities that depend on it, polluting the environment during the production of plastic, contributing to global warming by transporting bottled water over great distances, and irresponsibly disposing of billions of empty bottles.

Junior Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, a member of SEAC, was in charge of publicity art work for the campaign, including making the water bottle curtain. He said, “On average, bottled water is 800-5,000 times more expensive than tap water.”

Working on the campaign has affected the way in which Ruthenberg-Marshall views water usage, he says.

“I haven’t been using bottled water for well over a year, but this makes me even less inclined to use it,” he said. “More importantly, it has raised my awareness of water issues worldwide and the level of importance they should have on the environmental stage.”

Senior Bethany Wetherill, SEAC Co-president, said that getting bottled water off campus has been discussed since she arrived at the College three years ago. Over the summer, she interned at Food & Water Watch (F&WW), a national non-profit consumer advocacy group, and the group behind the national Take Back the Tap campaign. She is currently working as a liaison between F&WW and the College so that SEAC can use F&WW’s knowledge and resource base for the College campaign.

“Basically, we’d like to see a drastic reduction in the amount of bottled water on campus,” she said, “ideally meaning that the school stops selling bottled water; the students, faculty, and staff stop buying bottled water; [and] people are more informed about their water, where it comes from, what’s in it, and what they can do to support clean tap water for their community and others.”

Interested students can attend SEAC meetings every Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Goodpaster 117.

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