According to the award-winning documentary “Tapped,” the bottled water industry is not what it seems, and after beginning a Masters program in watershed science, graduate student Alex Niepoth couldn’t agree more.
On March 5, Niepoth organized a screening of the documentary. His goal was to educate students on issues surrounding the sale of bottled water. The screening, however, was only one small step to a much larger initiative — to remove bottled water sales from CSU entirely.
Niepoth started a student petition to make this a reality.
“(CSU is) renowned for our green initiatives and I think that it’s kind of silly to not think of the smaller impacts that people can make throughout campus to make the green initiatives greener,” Niepoth said.
The petition would push for President Tony Frank to renegotiate the contract between CSU and Coca-Cola to exclude the sale of bottled water. The 10-year, $5.2 million contract was signed in 2011 with a large portion of the funding set aside for research on water stewardship and conservation, according to a University press release.
To Niepoth, the most important aspect of the petition is to educate students.
“In all reality, I really just want to emphasize awareness because a lot of people just don’t know the issues,” Niepoth said. “I was oblivious to it eight months ago.”
According to “Tapped,” the bottled water industry contributes to environmental devastation, the privatization of water and depletion of natural resources for transport.
Every year Americans buy approximately 29 billion bottles of water, according to tappedthemovie.com, and Niepoth says that only 30 percent of that is recycled.
So far, Niepoth received mixed responses to the petition. In one day Niepoth collected 340 signatures. Various bicycle shops also donated 50 reusable water bottles to the cause. However, not all responses were positive.
“One guy just sort of threw his Smart Water bottle in the air and said, ‘No thanks I don’t want to support that,’ and another guy (that started to walk away) said, ‘I don’t have any money,’” he said. “I think we need to start wearing shirts that say, ‘We don’t want your money.’”
According to Niepoth, in order for the petition to reach Tony Frank for consideration, his team must get signatures from at least 10 percent, of the student population — approximately 2,800 signatures.
While he acknowledges that eliminating the sale of bottled water from campus is not a magic bullet solution, Niepoth said that he believes it’s a start.
“It’s a small piece to a big puzzle,” he said. “You still have plastics being distributed across campus and various other forms, but it’s also a step towards saying ‘We’re going to reduce our plastic, but we’re not going to support bottled water production,’ and that’s a huge step.”
For more information on the bottled water industry you can visit tappedthemovie.com. Niepoth plans to gain more signatures during Earth Week around April 22.
Collegian Reporter Natasha Leadem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.