Lack of signatures thwarts petition to ban bottled water

by Beacon Staff • April 2, 2008

EPSJ members Ashley Tarbet and Stefanie Lynch provided leaflets of information about the "impact of bottled water" on the rest of the world.,Emerson Peace and Social Justice presented a resolution early last month to the Student Government Association that would ban student organizations from using SGA funds to purchase bottled water.

EPSJ members Ashley Tarbet and Stefanie Lynch provided leaflets of information about the "impact of bottled water" on the rest of the world.

Tarbet said last month's "Water Week," sponsored by EPSJ, was a series of advocacy events to raise awareness about the lack of clean water around the world.

The goal of their presentation was to get an amendment added to the SGA Constitution banning the use of SGA funds for bottled water for every student organization, the junior visual and media arts and political and organizational communication double major said.

In order to do so, EPSJ would have to present a petition with 200 signatures that would put a question on the ballot for this year's general election. The election began yesterday and ends today.

SGA President Scott Fisher said EPSJ came about 10 signatures short of the 200 required, and the question will not appear on the ballot.

However, he said he applauded the group's efforts.

"This doesn't happen often enough," the sophomore visual and media arts major said. "More students should be trying initiatives like this."

Fisher also said since the guidelines dictating what student organizations can and can't spend SGA funds on lies in the treasurer's handbook and not the Constitution, EPSJ's best bet would be to appeal to SGA executive treasurer Katy Boungard.

The treasurer holds the power to make any changes in policy in the treasurer's handbook after discussing the changes with the SGA Executive Board, according to SGA chief justice Jeff Foster.

Since the treasurer must approve and sign all paperwork regarding SGA funds, the bottled water issue would lie within Boungard's jurisdiction.

Boungard said that when she makes her edits to the handbook at the end of the semester, she will readdress EPSJ's request.

Graduate visual and media arts major Amanda Kyed said she thinks the plan was a good idea.

"I was an undergrad at American University, and at any kind of event, the college would give out bottled water," she said. "Kids would have three sips and then throw the rest away. It was so wasteful."

Freshman RayLynn Tustin agreed.

"I personally like tap water. I know a lot of people don't like it," the writing, literature and publishing major said. "But I generally don't like it when people buy a new bottle of water every time they want some."

Emerson Democrats president Chris Boutillier, a sophomore, was less enthused.

"I don't want to make a big stink about this, but I think bottled water is necessary for student organizations sometimes. I think [the plan] is stupid," the organizational and political communication major said. "Banning bottled water is not going to change the world."

However, Tarbet encouraged students to take the Tap Water Pledge not to buy bottled water.

"Forty percent of bottled water is just tap water anyway," she said. "Why should you pay more when you can just get it yourself?"

According to EPSJ's fact sheet, tap water is actually cleaner than bottled water. Tap water, it said, cannot contain any confirmed E.coli or fecal Coliform bacteria by EPA regulations, but that in bottled water, a certain amount of any bacteria is allowed by FDA standards.

In 2007, UNICEF launched the Tap Project, a campaign where participating restaurants ask customers to donate a minimum of $1 for tap water that they would normally get for free.

The money goes towards supplying clean drinking water to children in need. A few participating restaurants in Boston include Fajitas 'Ritas, KO Prime, Tresca and Excelsior.

During Water Week, EPSJ screened Thirst, a documentary about the millions of people in the world without access to clean drinking water.

"We didn't get a huge turnout for the events, but we think we got plenty of information out there," Tarbet said. "Next year will be better."