When the campus-wide effort to end bottled water sales at UVM began four years ago, it was spearheaded by the Vermont Students Toward Environmental Protection (VSTEP), a student-run, non-profit organization created in 1988 to expand UVM’s recycling program and address environmental issues on Vermont campuses.
Marlee Baron ’11, a VSTEP president, was among the initial group of students who wanted to address the bottled water issue and started planning “Bring Your Own Bottle” days and informational tabling events. Baron, a double major in environmental studies and Spanish who wrote her senior thesis on “Creating a Sustainable Beverage System at UVM,” worked with Rubenstein School student Mikayla McDonald ’10, to draft the bottled water resolutions that were eventually passed by the SGA.
VSTEP president Greg Francese ’12, a double major in political science and geography, continued the effort by helping to collect more than 1,200 signatures from students in support of a resolution calling for a sustainable beverage system, surpassing the 10 percent requirement for an SGA resolution. Student efforts to reduce the usage of bottled water were already paying off as sales of flat, unflavored water dropped from 362,000 bottles in 2007 to 235,000 in 2010. The SGA formally voted to approve the end of bottled water sales in the fall of 2011.
Reflecting on his involvement in the ban, Greg says, “I'm still pretty proud of the work I was involved with at UVM—and certainly proud of UVM for going through with the ban. Also, I can't remember when I last bought bottled water.”
Currently, Greg is a graduate student studying urban and regional planning at the University at Albany (SUNY). His concentration is in bicycle and pedestrian planning and his dream job would be working on the development of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for a city. He is also the City of Albany's sustainability intern, which means for the past four months he has been going around Albany documenting the location of every single bike rack. He will also be assisting in the development of criteria for safe streets for cyclists in Albany.
Read more about the history of the ban here and here; listen to the story on NPR.