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Now that the referendum proposed by the Environmental Action Committee to eradicate single-use plastic water bottles on campus is slated to appear on the UC ballot in late November, the EAC is focusing on garnering student support for the referendum as well as for the installation of water fountains and refill stations in all residential and academic buildings.
The EAC’s campaign, called “Beyond the Bottle,” seeks to educate students about the safety of drinking tap water from fountains and refill stations. If the referendum is passed, these stations will replace the sale and distribution of plastic water bottles across campus in places like Harvard cafes and dining halls.
“We have some of the cleanest drinking water in the U.S., here in Cambridge,” said former EAC chair Kristen J. Wraith ’14. “A lot of people think that [tap water] isn’t really something that you should be drinking, but we want to make people feel as safe and comfortable as possible drinking this water.”
According to an EAC email statement, the process of bottling water uses 17 million barrels of oil and produces more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. This, in turn, furthers the proliferation of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere.
EAC members said that they did not think replacing bottled water on campus would be a major inconvenience for students.
Alex G. Krolewski ’15, a member of the EAC who ran a blind taste test between bottled and tap water during the early phases of the EAC’s campaign, said that “people could not really tell the difference.”
The EAC obtained 687 signatures on their campaign’s petition, surpassing the 10 percent of the student body necessary for their referendum to appear on the UC ballot. According to Wraith, the campaign received overwhelming support from the students it reached.
Jordan T. Weiers ’16, who signed the petition and plans to vote to pass the referendum, said that he believes the transition from plastic bottles to fountains and filling stations might be uncomfortable for the unaccustomed. Still, he said that he feels it is a step the administration needs to take in order to promote sustainability on campus.
“It will encourage Harvard students to buy their own bottles and use them,” he said.
Will B. Geiken ’15, a student who was not aware of the petition prior to his interview with The Crimson, said he will vote to pass the referendum.
“I believe that the excess plastic waste created from non-reusable plastic water bottles isn't beneficial for the environment as a whole,” he said.
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