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UISG: UI filtration proposal misunderstood

BY GUEST OPINION | SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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When bottled water first became a product, it was originally railed against as one of the most ridiculous sales pitches ever created: How could you possibly persuade people to buy something that was already at their disposal for free? However, look at us today. We have been suckered into one of the biggest economic scams of all time.

Not only are we paying for something that is relatively cheap, we are generating more waste because of it. Stepping back and looking at our society’s addiction to bottled water thus provides some interesting and unsettling perspective.

That being said, I was discouraged with the most recent article that ran in The Daily Iowan about implementing new water-fountain systems at the university, because I feel that the motivations for pursuing the endeavor are being misconstrued. The purpose of this pursuit is not based on skepticism of the local water quality; there is no reason to fear for the sanitation of the water. Instead, it is an attempt at reconfiguring the general populace’s perception of bottled water. There are so many students and faculty who buy bottled water every day, and while the plastic is recyclable, it still generates waste that requires energy and resources to be recycled.

The new water-fountain system is not a reflection on the water quality but instead a reflection on uninformed consumerism. If the university provides the means to fill our bottles with a similar product as is found in plastic bottles, people will save money, and, more importantly, divert a huge amount of unnecessary waste from recycling plants. This is important because the only thing better than producing recyclable waste is producing no waste at all.

I understand the financial concerns, and I will not deny that the filtration systems are expensive. However, to deem them unnecessary reflects careless commentary on the part of the university. As the lead university of the state, I believe it is our job to be at the forefront of development, as well as to be risk takers in the sake of creating a more sustainable university. I believe that this minor, physical change in our water-fountain systems can greatly affect the number of plastic bottles found on campus — ideally, zero. There is no way to eliminate the sale of disposable bottled water on campus. The only thing we can do is provide the means to make more environmentally friendly decisions.

My hopes for this project are to work alongside the skeptics in order to revolutionize the attitude toward bottled water, not to cause friction with those who see the new systems as a response to “poor” water quality. The purpose of this project is to shed some light on how to be a sustainable citizen. I think it is necessary and important for everyone to see these objectives, as well as enable them, because it is the only way we can eliminate bottled water together.

Kelsey Zlevor is the sustainability advocate for the University of Iowa Student Government.


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