LINCOLN — While one college campus in Iowa is limiting the sale of bottled water, University of Nebraska campuses and Creighton University say they aren't ready to go down that road yet.
After a successful student-led campaign, Drake University in Des Moines will severely limit the sales of plastic single-serving water bottles next fall. Instead, the university will hand out reusable water bottles to students at the start of the fall semester. University of Nebraska campuses and Creighton have decided to follow a different path on sustainability.
“The sale of beverages is a source of revenue for our student center, and there are people that like to have that convenience,” said Patrick Wheeler, environmental specialist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Eric Reznicek, president of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student government, said the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) is doing other things to get students to change their habits.
“We have started an educational program with freshmen where they will get an education pack with a reusable water bottle and a drawstring bag made out of recycled material,” Reznicek said. Packs will also include tips on how students can be earth-friendly in their day-to-day activities.
UNO's environmental club handed out nearly 500 reusable water bottles and 250 reusable coffee mugs at the start of the fall semester, Wheeler said, not only to promote the use of reusable plastics, but to stop students from having to buy water.
Drake's plan also includes hydration stations — special water fountains around campus that make it easy to fill tall bottles.
UNO installed a filtered hydration station in the food court of the Milo Bail Student Center last fall to see if the idea was worth replicating, Wheeler said.
“It won't be something that we do en masse, but I hope it's something that we can do,” he said.
UNL also has a few stations installed in the Nebraska Union and around campus. Reznicek said the fountains track how many plastic water bottles students save from going to landfills.
“The ones that I've walked by, I've never seen below 5,000 water bottles — and they were just installed at the beginning of the school year,” Reznicek said.
But cutting bottled water completely would create too many hurdles, he said, and ASUN sees its time being better spent in areas that could have a bigger effect on sustainability.
So far, UNL has installed solar panels on East Campus and LED lights around campus.
Creighton's Green Jays student group is working to raise awareness about environmental issues across campus. The campus has an array of solar panels that supply a portion of the campus's electricity as well as being a tool for classes to learn about sustainable energy. Other efforts include a community garden, reducing food waste by eliminating trays in the dining halls, and periodic clothing drives.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney held its second “Dumpster dive” to sort through trash and recycling and analyze the material inside, said Lee McQueen, UNK director of facilities management and planning.
“It helps us look at waste per student and waste per staff member, which can help us develop how we handle waste in the future,” he said.
The Kearney campus is also looking into LED lighting, McQueen said.
“We as individuals can and need to do a lot, but as a unit we can make the most impact on sustainability when we are really conscious about conserving energy,” he said.
UNO also has plans for sustainability on a larger scale, including bike-share programs, tree plantings and electronic recycling, as well as an effort to create classes in sustainability for undergraduate and graduate students next year.
“That's not to say what Drake is doing is bad,” Wheeler said. “I think it's a great thing for them — just not the path that we've chosen to go down here. At least not yet.”
Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, has restricted its sales of bottled water. The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa say they have no such plans, but they have installed water bottle filling stations.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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