Santa Clara University

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Story in the College of Arts & Sciences

Freeburg photo

Chris Freeburg '11

Biology major, International Development major
At a glance:

Can Chris Freeburg eliminate plastic water bottles on campus?

Chris Freeburg is on a mission: make Santa Clara University “Water Bottle Free.”

The idea came to him at the Jesuit University Student Leadership Conference, where Freeburg learned about student leaders from other universities who had removed all plastic water bottles on campus, with the exception of large-scale events, like graduation. He believes that all the pieces are in place to implement a similar ban at Santa Clara—it just needs support from the campus community.
It’s not simply about forbidding students from purchasing bottled water. This biology and international development double major wants to educate the campus community about the numerous natural resources needed in order to produce bottled water.
According to research conducted by the Pacific Institute, an institution that aims to find solutions to the world’s water shortages, it takes approximately three bottles of water just to produce a single plastic bottle­­­—not including the water it will eventually hold. Not to mention, in 2008, it was reported that 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles were disposed of, rather than recycled (data provided by the EPA), which creates waste.   
Freeburg teamed up with Iris Stewart-Frey, an environmental studies professor, for Water Week—an event where volunteers collect signatures in support of the pledge to reduce water usage—to educate people about this reality. He also found enthusiastic support from student and staff in his effort to ban plastic water bottles on campus. Joe Sugg, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Operations, has pledged to increase the number of goose-neck water fountain spouts around campus, to make refilling water bottles more convenient. The SCU student government, including Julie Peterson, Associated Student Government Senator for Sustainability, is helping to enact a water bottle ban as well.
If all goes according to plan, sales of plastic water bottles will be phased out at the dining hall by fall 2012. The goal to become a “Water Bottle Free” campus, however, is a long-term project.
“This is not just a Band-Aid solution to a problem on-campus; it is part of a larger change of consciousness in our society about our consumption and our waste,” Freeburg said.

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