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Vermont Climate Collaborative

UVM Eco-Sculpture Highlights Press Conference at State House

bottled water sculpture
An eco-sculpture designed by Art Department faculty member Beth Haggart was the centerpiece of a press conference held Wednesday, March 20, at 10 a.m. in the Vermont State House. The sculpture is on display in the building’s lobby. (Photo: Andy Duback)

An eco-sculpture designed by a University of Vermont art professor made from nearly 3,000 empty single-serve water bottles was the centerpiece of a press conference held Wednesday, March 20, at 10 a.m. in the Vermont State House. The sculpture is on display in the building’s lobby.

Spearheaded by Sen. Ginny Lyons, the event was designed to bring attention to the cause of recycling and waste management in the state and to spur discussion and debate about current and recent legislation related to those topics.

Act 148 of May 2012 bans the disposal of recyclables and mandates composting by 2020. In addition, some in the legislature wish to consider an expansion of the state’s bottle bill. 

“These are complex issues that benefit from discussion by stakeholders representing every interest,” Lyons said. “Creative artwork can stimulate our own creativity as we look for solutions to resource management and plastic water bottles.”

The press conference also brought attention to the Agency of Natural Resources mandate that all state buildings, including the State House, ban the sale of disposable bottled water products.

UVM enacted just such a policy in January 2013, which the bottled water sculpture was originally designed to celebrate. 

“Students asked the university as a public institution to commit to providing free, local tap water,” said Gioia Thompson, director of UVM’s Office of Sustainability. “Students are now used to filling their own bottles at the fountains retrofitted around campus, and staff have been finding new ways to keep people hydrated at large outdoor events such as graduation.”

“What UVM did was terrific,” said Agency of Natural Resources secretary Deb Markowitz. “We’ve taken first steps in state government. We look forward to doing more.”

UVM’s move to end the sale of bottled water began in 2008 and was spearheaded by Mikayla McDonald, a Natural Resources Planning major who graduated in 2010 and is now a climate policy advocate for the Vermont chapter of 350.org, a global grassroots movement that seeks to mitigate climate change. 

“We started this campaign because we witnessed student bottled water consumption generate so much unnecessary waste, which ends up in landfills, on our roadsides and in our waterways,” she said. “Not only is it more expensive, less regulated, and more harmful to the environment than tap water, but the consumption of bottled water allows corporations to privatize our vital public water resources. This, in my opinion, is simply wrong.”

The eco-sculpture was created by Beth Haggart, a sculptor and conceptual artist. She works frequently with recyclable materials and has taught at UVM since 2000.    

Haggart designed the sculpture during August and September. A team of three – Haggart and senior art majors Casey Smith and Ashley Roche – constructed it over the next two months with help from other UVM students.

The team constructed a modified version of the sculpture – originally an arch, the new structure has three columns – during January and February. 

“I hope people take this image home and remember it every time they reach for a bottled water,” Haggart said. 

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