PSU looks to Take Back the Tap

Portland State’s sustainability department is applying for a $10,000 grant that could result in cleaner water across campus. Liz Simmons, an urban studies graduate student at Portland State, is spearheading one of many new sustainability projects on campus, called the Take Back the Tap campaign, inspired by a national campaign of the same name. The campaign aims to reduce the amount of bottled water purchased and consumed at PSU, also a goal of sustainability. Her campaign is working alongside the sustainability office’s grant proposal.

Portland State’s sustainability department is applying for a $10,000 grant that could result in cleaner water across campus.

Liz Simmons, an urban studies graduate student at Portland State, is spearheading one of many new sustainability projects on campus, called the Take Back the Tap campaign, inspired by a national campaign of the same name. The campaign aims to reduce the amount of bottled water purchased and consumed at PSU, also a goal of sustainability. Her campaign is working alongside the sustainability office’s grant proposal.

Heather Spalding, assistant sustainability coordinator, said she and Sustainability Coordinator Noelle Studer-Spevak recently came across the sustainability competition, sponsored by the water company Brita.

The company is giving away five $10,000 grants for sustainability, based on applicant schools’ environmental impacts, Simmons said.

Simmons said she and the Portland State Sustainability Department recently discovered a competition sponsored by the water company Brita on ecowiki.pdx.edu, PSU’s online environmental resource.

Spalding and Studer-Spevak had been talking with Simmons about starting a campaign to reduce water bottles on campus, and brought the company’s competition to their attention.

According to Brita’s Web site, five entries will be chosen based on creativity, environmental benefit, educational impact, and best use of time and budget. Each chosen entry will receive a $10,000 grant to pursue their chosen project.

The sustainability department, in conjunction with Simmons, is currently hard at work on preparing their proposal for the competition. The chances of success hinge largely on campus support, Simmons said.

If student and campus support is significant, that may be included in the proposal, and thus will give a better chance of receiving the grant, Spalding said.

The scope of Take Back the Tap will depend on whether or not PSU is awarded a grant, Simmons said. However, this hasn’t kept PSU’s sustainability department from planning how the money would be spent, Spalding said.

The installation of water bottle refilling stations on campus, which serve as their own sources of clean, filtered water, is the main goal, she said. By installing water bottle refilling stations in central areas around campus, fewer water bottles will have to be bought and consumed, she said. Spalding said she hopes a number of refilling stations can be installed, if PSU receives the grant money.

“The ultimate goal would be to eliminate bottled water altogether,” said Simmons.

According to the national Take Back the Tap pamphlet, by the national nonprofit Food and Water Watch, nine out of every 10 bottles of water end up in a landfill, and it takes a quarter of a cup of oil to produce and transport only one liter of bottled water.

“Water is a fundamental human right and need,” Simmons said. “All people should have access to clean drinking water. It shouldn’t become another commodity.”

Spalding is fully supportive of Simmons’ efforts.

“Portland State is the number one user of bottled water in the state, and that’s a lot of bottled water,” said Spalding. “We have a lot of buying power here, so it’s good to redirect some of that to positive causes.”

Spalding also said if Simmons’ campaign is successful, people on campus will emulate it.

“It’s a visible behavior, and an easy one to change,” Spalding said. “People will mimic behaviors such as bringing their own thermoses of coffee and water to campus.”

Some students are already doing just that.

Heather Long, a liberal arts major, brings her own thermoses of coffee and water to school every day.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Long said about the effort to reduce the use of bottled water. “Anything that would help reduce garbage is a good thing.”

Simmons says that there are many tasks students can do, including handing out some stickers sent by the Portland Water Bureau that say “I only drink tap water.”

For students interested in helping with the campaign, contact Liz Simmons at [email protected]

THE GRANTBrita is holding a nationwide competition to give away five $10,000 grants for campus sustainability projects to recipient colleges. The competition, called the FilterForGood Eco-Challenge, asks students to submit proposals that would affect the way their campus helps the environment.

The criteria for each proposal will include creativity, environmental benefit, educational impact, and best use of time and budget. The top five proposals will be selected.

According to Heather Spalding, co-coordinator of PSU’s sustainability deparment, the more students that participate in sustainable campus projects, the better PSU’s chances are to win grant money. If enough students get involved at the university, the extra help can actually be included as part of PSU’s proposal.

Spalding said if PSU receives a grant from Brita, the money would hopefully be used for the installation of water bottle refilling stations around campus, which could help to reduce the number of water bottles bought and consumed on campus.

For more information or to get involved visit www.ecowiki.pdx.edu or email Liz Simmons, coordinator for PSU’s Take Back the Tap campaign to reduce excess water bottles on campus, at [email protected]