Senate approves plan to make campus water bottle-free

 Graphic by Carrie Clowers ’18

Graphic by Carrie Clowers ’18

BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20

At last Tuesday’s weekly Senate meeting, SGA senators voted in favor of the student-led initiative to make Mount Holyoke College a water bottle-free campus. This is the first of many steps that the student organization Think Outside the Bottle is taking in order to accomplish their goal of making the College a water bottle-free institution. 

The Think Outside the Bottle initiative started three or four years ago. Their goal of a plastic water bottle-free campus means that water bottles won’t be sold in vending machines, Rao’s coffee shop or any other dining service area. It would also mean that during on-campus events like graduation, admissions events and department teas, water bottles will not be distributed by the College. This initiative focuses solely on plastic water bottles, and does not include any other types of bottled beverages like soda, vitamin water or the Dunkin Donuts iced coffee drinks served in Kendade. 

 “The issue with water bottles is that when you buy a water bottle you’re commodifying a resource that should be open to all people,” said Think Outside the Bottle’s Senator Naomi Brown ’21.  

Brown explained that water companies, such as Nestlé, withhold water from communities in need to make a profit. Brown said Nestlé isn’t the only big company doing this, and that this is why she believes the Mount Holyoke community should care.

When asked about how the switch away from plastic water bottles would impact  campus life, Brown said she believes it really won’t affect students’ daily lives. “You can still bring bottled water onto campus,” she explained. “What we’re hoping for is that the institution [will agree] profiting from water bottles being sold on campus.” 

Rachel Alldis, assistant dean of students and director of Residential Life,  said that there are ramifications to making Mount Holyoke a water bottle-free campus.

“We need to think about the moments when the heat is 100 degrees and we have students, faculty, families on campus for big events such as graduation,” said Alldis. “On a sweltering hot day, how do we distribute water in safe ways for people who aren’t necessarily carrying a water bottle on them?” 

Alldis went on to clarify that the idea of having a water bottle-free campus is a great one, but that conversations need to be had about the challenges that not having plastic water bottles distributed on campus might bring. 

Since the plan was approved by Senate for the student body on Tuesday, Think Outside the Bottle is engaging in those conversations now. The organization has met with Acting President Sonya Stephens, and is currently seeking approval from the athletic department, Residential Life, Office of Admission, Dining Services, Facilities Management and various academic departments, according to Brown.

“What are the ways that we can have a win for both sides?” Alldis said. “I think we would ultimately like to be water bottle-free, but we need to take into account the concerns that come up. Our goal is to support student initiatives, so we do want to try and help them accomplish their goals.” 

For now, Think Outside the Bottle hopes to educate more people about their cause and gain greater support from departments outside the student body. Brown said that water is and should be treated as a human right. This initiative to make Mount Holyoke water bottle-free is just “fighting for the right for all people to have clean and safe drinking water,” she said. 

“For me personally, as next year I will be the chair of the initiative, my hope is that we at least get all the Mount Holyoke departments campus-wide to agree to making Mount Holyoke a water bottle-free campus by the end of 2018,” said Brown. 

Amanda Manaster ’19 supports the initiative, saying she hasn’t used a plastic water bottle “in a very long time.” She added, “We already have the fountains for reusable water bottles, so it’s easy to fill up pretty much anywhere.”

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