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 Chris Freeburg, '11

Posted on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2011

Senior Chris Freeburg is on a mission: to build a University-wide commitment to be "Water Bottle Free." The idea came to him after attending the Jesuit University Student Leadership Conference when he was Senate Chair of Associated Students his sophomore year. Freeburg learned that student leaders from Gonzaga University organized to remove plastic water bottles from their campus. Seattle University, which also uses Dining Services by Bon Appetit, has done away with plastic water bottles on campus as well, with the exception of big events like basketball games and graduation. Freeburg believes that all the pieces are in place to implement a similar ban at Santa Clara; it just needs support from the campus community.

Freeburg sees this project as a means for social change, education and awareness; it’s not simply about forbidding students to purchase bottled water. He wants to educate the campus community about the numerous natural resources needed in order to produce bottled water. Industry data shows that it takes approximately three bottles of water just to produce a single plastic bottle, not including the water it will eventually hold. Regulations on bottled water are often much more lax than those on tap water. Plus tap water is much more economically efficient: there’s a one-time sunk cost of a reusable bottle, but refilling that bottle is essentially free.

With burgeoning support from a number of student leaders, the campaign is making great strides. Freeburg is working closely with Julie Peterson, ASG Senator for Sustainability. He praised his fellow students and their efforts. The next step for Freeburg and his team is to reach out to the larger student body, educate them about the economic and environmental issues surrounding bottled water versus bottles of the reusable variety.

“Without commitment from the student body and institutional support, the large-scale movement away from single-use water bottles is not feasible,” Freeburg said.

Faculty and staff are in support of the efforts as well. Freeburg teamed up with Environmental Studies professor Iris Stewart-Frey last quarter for Water Week where volunteers manned a table in Benson collecting signatures in support of the pledge. Joe Sugg, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Operations, has pledged to increase the amount of goose-neck water fountain spouts around campus. Goose-neck fountains, which allow for easier refilling of water bottles, can already be found in the Learning Commons and Lucas Hall, but adding more will make refilling more convenient.

If all goes according to plan, sales of plastic water bottles will be phased out at Marketplace by next fall. The goal to become a "Water Bottle Free" campus in its entirety, however, is a long term project. Dealing with sporting events and special occasions like graduation and parent’s weekend will be more challenging.

“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.

Freeburg hopes to garner more support for the "Water Bottle Free" pledge from the campus community during the upcoming Earth Week.

Written by Julie Peterson, '12, ASG Senator for Sustainability and Emily Orbanek, '11, Sustainability Intern.

Tags: Campus Operations, Co-Curricular Education, Community Engagement, Education and Research, Food, Profiles, Waste Diversion, Water