1. Reusable IES Water Bottles and Grocery Bags
The purpose of this action is to make available for IES students reusable water bottles and grocery bags in order to reduce their ecological footprints and save money in the process. Using the sustainability club as a means of distribution, it is hoped that students will be able to purchase IES branded reusable items next semester. Through this action, and with the support of IES staff in encouraging students to act more sustainable, it is hoped that the students can greatly reduce the amount of energy and plastic they waste by using disposable water bottles and grocery bags in their daily lives.
There are several reasons why this action is being implemented in IES. It will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, it will reduce the waste produced by our throwaway economic mindset, it should yield health and cost benefits for students, and should also reduce our ecological and water footprints. Furthermore, there are these other reasons to reduce plastic bag and bottled water use:
Reasons to reduce plastic bottle use:
1.) Health Concerns: One time use plastic bottles are dangerous to your health. IES has fountains throughout the center at which many students refill their disposable plastic bottles for the rest of the day. Although this may be more sustainable, it is actually dangerous to the health of the students. Plastic, by nature, is a porous material which means that some of the chemicals in the plastic leach into the water you are drinking. Scientists from the California Environment Research and Policy Center (CERP) conducted a study in which 130 different types of plastic bottles were analyzed, and the majority of them contained lexan, a chemical that can adversely affect the body's hormone messaging system, which was leaked out over time into the bottle. Even the normal soda and water bottles that we would be wont to refill at IES are dangerous. The bottles may be safe for their intended, one time use, but re-use should be avoided because studies indicate that they may leach DEHP, a probable human carcinogen. Also, for the most part, bottled water conveys an aura of quality, purity and safety, meanwhile in most cases governments require far more rigourous and frequent safety testing of tap water.
2.) Individual Cost: Tap water is significantly cheaper than bottled water, which can at times even exceed the cost of gasoline. Bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water which, on average, costs about $0.002 per gallon, compared to the $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon for bottled water. Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic recommends that adults should consume about 2 liters of water or other fluids a day to replace lost liquids. At the grocery store, a 1.5 liter bottle usually costs around €0.30, but can easily be priced over €1 if bought at other locations or in smaller amounts. Therefore, I feel the average cost for 1.5 liters of water would be about €0.50 a day for IES students, which would add up to about a €55 cost for the students in necessary water for the semester. A reusable water bottle would drastically reduce if not completely eliminate this cost to the students throughout the semester.
3.) Waste of Fossil Fuels: According to the plastics manufacturing industry, it takes around 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one-liter plastic bottle, cap, and packaging. Making enough plastic to bottle 31.2 billion liters of water, the demand by US consumers alone in 2006, required more than 106 billion megajoules of energy. Because a barrel of oil contains around 6 thousand megajoules, studies estimate that the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil was needed to produce these plastic bottles. That does not include the fuel wasted on transportation and other activities. Much more energy is then required to bottle the water, ship it, cool it, and then recover or process the thrown away bottles. In the end, the Pacific Institute, estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling the bottle about a quarter of the way with oil. Therefore, our demand for bottled water is actually increasing our dependence on fossil fuels while also rapidly depleting supplies.
4.) Waste of Water: Millions of gallons of water are used in the plastic making process, and in 2006 in the US, it took 3 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. Also, many water bottlers, due to the growth in the industry, have been increasing water extraction near their plants, leading to water shortages that affect local citizens and agriculture. Using a safe, reusable water bottle would therefore allow IES students to reduce their water footprint and negative impact on the environment.
5.) Environmental Impact: Despite the fact that most plastic bottles are made from PET plastic and this plastic is very easy to recycle, recycling rates for plastic bottles are very low globally. Anywhere between 15-35% of plastic bottles make their way into recycling facilities, depending on the region, with the rest ending up in landfills. Once in the landfills, the bottles take hundreds of years to decay and potentially leach chemicals which can damage the soil and groundwater. Also, many bottles make their way into the oceans, most notably the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has negative health effects for microorganisms in the oceans.
6.) Carbon Impact: The production of plastic water bottles is responsible for releasing more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. That is just the bottling process and does not include transportation.
Reasons to Reduce Plastic Bag Use:
1.) Environmental and Ecosystem Effects: Plastic bags are not biodegradable and end up in landfills, or in the environment, where they take over 1,000 years to break down. Plastic bags are also a danger to biodiversity, as they are responsible for the death of thousands of birds and marine mammals annually. Also, plastic bags have been known to get into and clog waterways, where they pollute the soil and water, and also play a role in flooding. Paper bags are even disastrous for the environment, as they deal a double effect on global warming as large swathes of forest need to be cut down and CO2 is released during the actual bag creation.
2.) Resource and Energy Waste: An estimated 12 million barrels of oil are used each year in order to produce plastic bags. Also, it is estimated to take about .48 MJ of energy to produce a plastic bag. That energy and fuel could be saved and better used if plastic bags were used less frequently, and therefore demand dropped. Also, regarding paper bags, millions of trees need to be felled each year in order to produce the amount of bags needed. For example, in 1999, 14 million trees were cut down to produce the bags needed for the American market alone.
3.) Low Recycling Rates: The Wall Street Journal estimates that only about 10-15% of paper bags are recycled, with the rate falling to 1-3% for plastic bags. That means that the majority of the billions of paper and plastic bags produced annually end up in our local environments or landfills.
4.) Hidden Costs: The plastic bags that are provided to you are not free. Remember the age old adage of economics, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Plastic bags cost between $0.02-0.06 a unit, and that cost is passed onto the consumer through slightly higher prices for their goods. Furthermore, it costs municipalities about $0.17 per bag to remove them from roads, rivers etc, and to store them in landfills. This translates into wasted tax revenues and higher tax rates for citizens.
5.) Toxicity: In 2001, Japanese researchers released a report which demonstrated that plastic debris acts like a sponge for toxic chemicals, and can soak up a million fold greater concentration of deadly compounds such as PCB’s and DDE. Furthermore, one of the main toxins in plastic bags is Dioxin. This chemical is an endocrine disruptor, which contributes to gender development mutations as it disrupts the hormonal release during the developing stages of an organism’s life. These chemicals are the ingested by thousands of organisms annually, leading to death, mutations, and the biomagnification of the chemicals in the food chain. This has several unintended effects on the biodiversity in our environments.
Therefore, when examining disposable water bottles and grocery bags, it is clear to see that if examined within the framework of “cradle to the grave”, these are two of the most unsustainable and dangerous elements of our throwaway economy, both of which can easily be remedied by a change in consumer behavior and with the greater availability of alternatives, such as reusable water bottles and grocery bags.
1.2.1. Potential Benefits
By using reusable, metal water bottles, the students can actually avoid many of the harmful chemicals that are leached into disposable, plastic water bottles. Furthermore, the students can save on the costs of bottled water by using their free access to the water available at IES. Regarding reusable bags, a few grocers in Barcelona actually levy a small charge for plastic bags, so students will be able to avoid this cost by bringing their own bags. Also, reusable grocery bags are usually larger and more durable than plastic bags, making them less likely to tear and more convenient to use to carry groceries back to their apartment or homestay. Students would also be able to reduce their ecological and water footprints and live more sustainable. Moreover, these items would act as advertisements for IES and could potentially lead to more enrollments in the center, which would generate more revenue.
1.2.2. Potential Costs
1.) Water Bottles: After meeting with Cesar, the prospect of getting reusable water bottles supplied to IES seems dim. The costs would be too high and Cesar said IES could not afford it, but a separate deal was struck. IES sells water bottles printed with their logo on their website, and Cesar was willing to ask the IES headquarters about getting customized bottles printed with our club logo. These bottles could then be purchased individually by students at the center or through the sustainability club in a large order. IES is not able to purchase the bottles and then sell them to students at the center for tax reasons, so this seemed to be the logical way to circumnavigate that issue.
2.) Reusable Bags: The bags on the other hand, are going to be financially backed by IES and have already been ordered. The order was placed before the club had developed a logo, but luckily the logo to be printed on the bags closely resembles that of the club. The bags will be printed with the “IES Go Green” initiative logo, with Barcelona printed underneath that, which is very similar to the club logo. These bags will be given free of charge to all students at IES, and extras will be made available through the club.
Originally, it was hoped that all students at IES would be provided with a reusable water bottle and grocery bag upon arrival, but due to cost restrictions and logistics that goal was overly ambitious. Therefore, some changes have been made.
After meeting with Cesar, we have struck and deal and agreed on several things regarding the reusable grocery bags. He echoed the original idea of this action to provide all of the students with reusable grocery bags filled with all of their needed documents at the airport. The bags have already been purchased and will be distributed to all students as they arrive in Barcelona. Furthermore, Cesar is willing to put other items related to the sustainability club and other actions in the bags for the students.
Regarding the Sustainability Club and the water bottles, there are still ways to use this action to provide incentives for students to join the club. Cesar is behind the creation of the club, and is willing to place a flier in each of the bags at the airport, detailing what the club is about and making students aware of the first meeting. This should increase awareness of the club as most students will read through the materials provided for them on the first day. Furthermore, it is possible that water bottles will be printed with the Sustainability Club logo and made available through the IES website. Therefore, students in the club will still have the opportunity to order reusable bottles if they want. Also, Cesar said there will be extra bags, and they could be made available through the club for ecoeuros.
~/tc~Some thoughts and questions: Print in the Get Set Guide a recommendation that students bring a reusable water bottle or buy one from IES. The plan shouldn't be to make one for every student, which is potentially wasteful. Should they ask students via e-mail? Via a question in the To-Do list on the website? Should they be paid for by an added fee to all students who request one? Pay online or in person (Airport?)? Manufacturer? Design? How should they be distributed: RAs? Administration office? Airport?~/tc~
1.4. References & Links
"A World of Reasons to Ditch Bottled Water." TreeHugger.com. 07 Sept. 2007. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. <http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/reasons_to_ditch_bottled_water.php>.
"Pacific Institute : Water & Sustainability." Pacinst.org. Pacific Institute: Research for People and the Planet, 2008. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. <http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/bottled_water_and_energy.html>.
Pearce, Karen. "No Bags, Thanks!" Abc.net.au. ABC, 2008. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. <http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/bags/default.htm>.
Pomeroy, Grace. Reusable Grocery Bag. Rep. Sustainability: Challenges and Responses, 2010. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. <http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/tiki-index.php?page=Reusable+grocery+bag&structure=2010a+Spring+Actions>.
Smith, S. E. "What Is the Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle?" www.wisegeek.com. WiseGEEK, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-life-cycle-of-a-plastic-bottle.htm>.
"Water: How Much You Should Drink Everyday." Nutrition and Healthy Eating. The Mayo Clinic, 05 Nov. 2010. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283>.
1.5. Students involved in this action
William Bayer: Leader
Jack Krieger: Helped with ideas and formulation.
Aaron Richards: Research
Assignment: Peer review form
Grades for this action report (From the PROFESSOR)