On Thursday, April 7th VSTEP and Students for a Sustainable Beverage System (SSBS) held a panel event to discuss the environmental, social and economic costs of choices for the next university beverage contract. Panelists included Richard Cate, Gioia Thompson, Gretchenrae Callanta, Gary Flomenhoft and Tom Dion.
Gioia Thompson, Director of the Office of Sustainability, began with an overview of the current beverage system and its issues along with the basis for thinking sustainably about beverage systems from all aspects.
Richard Cate, VP of Finance and Administration, spoke for the administration and said they are open to how the new contract works and what the focus of the talks will be.
Gary Flomenhoft, Research Associate Professor in RSENR, provided context for the discussion, particularly on bottled water, by explaining that in Vermont surface water and groundwater are held as a public trust resources and beginning in 2012 those extracting water for resale will need to pay a fee to the state. Bottled water in the Davis Center Marketplace is sold for $6.52/gallon, which is about twice the price of gasoline per gallon and bottling companies are using public groundwater resources so you are paying for the water twice. Flomenhoft also advocated for the ban after both the State of Vermont and the City of Burlington have banned bottled water in their offices to cut down on costs and waste.
Gretchenrae Callanta spoke of her experiences of an a contract with Pepsi and banning bottled water at Seattle University. Students held a six month campaign with water testing, panels and petitions that resulted in a 2 1/2 year "phase out" of all bottled water on campus. Tom Dion, Chief Operator for Water in the Burlington Public Works Department, spoke primarily to the issue of bottled water and the quality of Burlington's water supply. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA while the public water supplies are overseen by the EPA, which have stricter standards.
A question and answer session followed each panelists talk and meeting attendees were eager to ask questions and keep the conversation going. Petitions were available to sign and as well as copies of the Resolution in Support of a Sustainable Beverage System. The event was another step forward in preparing for a new beverage contract and engaging the community in University decisions.