Feb 222012
Authors: Jason Pohl

The next time you buy a bottle of water from the nearest vending machine on your way to class, ask yourself what you would do if that wasn’t an option.

Nick Vasquez, a sophomore environmental health major, hopes to change the future of plastic bottle use and the university’s multi-million dollar partnership with Coca-Cola Co. by molding the views many have of one of the most basic elements –– water.

Vasquez has teamed with Food and Water Watch to raise awareness and advocate for a change about bottled water. He ultimately hopes to persuade administration to change the bottled water contract with Coca-Cola Co. Instead, he says money should be put toward existing water resources.

“I feel like all environmental impacts are global,” he said, citing the detrimental effects of plastic in the environment. “The fact that I’m going out there and raising awareness might make a difference.”

Though in the early stages, Vasquez hopes it will gather support in the coming months and ultimately change the view of bottled water held by nearly everyone on campus.

His efforts follow in the footsteps of more than 20 college that have worked to stop selling plastic water bottles around the U.S., and could change the future of the self-proclaimed “green university.”

“I would rather have people use tap water,” he said. “It’s really their public domain. We’re already paying for it, so why not use it?”

Advocates of the ban, including Vasquez, say the numbers of bottles being trashed is only a part of the larger “privatized” bottle water system.

“Water should be available for everyone free of charge,” said Sam Schabacker, the Mountain West region director for Food and Water Watch. “There’s something very cruel about putting it in a plastic bottle and jacking up rates by hundreds of percent and forcing people to pay for it.”

Schabacker explained that much of what the organization does is advocate for an outright ban of bottles at universities across the country while encouraging public filling stations from the tap water supply.

The University of Denver is among the schools considering changes like this.

“We’re really looking forward to kicking it into high gear,” Schabacker said referring to efforts with more than 60 university campuses across the country and the uphill battle with existing beverage contracts.

The news of bottle bans around the country comes less than a year in to the university’s multi-million dollar contract with Coca-Cola Co., which produces Dasani.

Maria Cereghino, public affairs and community manager for Coca-Cola’s Denver office, explained that the company takes extra initiatives to ensure green operation. The changes include using plant-based materials and the least amount of plastic within bottles.

“We want to make sure we’re being responsible corporate citizens,” Cereghino said. “Our business can’t be sustainable if the community we are operating in can’t be sustainable.”

She added that one of the key sustainable aspects of Coke is that it is locally produced in the areas distributed. She said products at CSU are produced at the Denver office.

To ban bottles, she said, would send the wrong message to consumers.

“We don’t want people to not use tap water, but we want to give people variety for those on-the-go consumers,” she said. “We want to be able to provide that for them.”

Though the movement is still in its infancy, Vasquez said he has high hopes of changing the way people at CSU use bottled water.

He will be holding informational meetings on bottle issues throughout the semester. The first meeting will be held Monday, March 5 in the Morgan Library. For more information, Vasquez can be reached at (303) 877-0570.

“There’s a lot of disconnect with bottled water,” Vasquez said, adding he hopes to advocate change beyond the immediate community.

“(Bottled water) is contributing to world problems greater than just CSU’s campus.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Nick Vasquez
Raising environmental, social issues regarding bottled water
Hopes to change 2020 contract with Coca-Cola Co.
1st informational meeting Monday, March 5
6 p.m.
Contact: n.vasquez@rams.colostate.edu
Phone: (303) 877-0570

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