Third-year UC Santa Cruz students Gabi Kirk and Lindsey Roark are on a mission to bring plastic water bottle sales on campus to an end.
City on a Hill Press: Can you tell me about the project you are both a part of?
Kirk: Take Back the Tap is a campaign to end the sale of plastic water bottles on the UCSC campus, and eventually, the UC systemwide. We want to build long-lasting behavioral change. We want to be teaching the people who are going to lead our nation and our future that these are the social values that we hold dear, that water is a right for everyone.
CHP: Would you consider Take Back the Tap a green movement?
Roark: Our campaign is more about the fact that water is privatized, that water is commoditized, and it is something that should be available to everyone. It’s great that there will be less plastic consumption, but that’s not what our campaign is about. We’re trying to make this also a community-based marketing scheme, [instead] of an information-based marketing scheme …What we’re trying to do is find out exactly why people buy bottled water [and] how can we modify that behavior to be more sustainable.
CHP: How is the project going?
Roark: Hopefully by mid-May there will be two spigots, one in the foyer at OPERS and one in the upper floor of the Wellness Center. They’ll just be little push-back spigots where you can fill your water bottles. And if that goes well, then we are hoping to install spigots at all of the high-usage areas that we find around campus, so probably around 25 more spigots. We’re hoping to have the rest of the installation done next year [since] they don’t have the capacity [this year].
Kirk: We actually got grants from Measure 43 and Measure 44, which were passed last year on the ballot.
CHP: Any other future plans for the project?
Kirk: We want to identify the “deserts,” as we like to call them, areas without an accessible water source, and maybe make it into a map for a phone, where someone can ask, “Where is the water fountain near me?” and then later on, “Where is the recycling bin near me?” [or] “When does the next bus come?” And we want to build a website with a transparent budget, so that people can track it. If we’re going to be spending student fees, we want to make sure it’s in a way that’s going to engage the student body.
CHP: Have you received support from the administration?
Roark: What’s cool is that we’ve noticed in this project that every administration, staff [or] faculty [member] that we’ve approached about this has been so stoked, and so as far as administration support, I feel like the administration supports us full-heartedly.
Kirk: There’s a great sustainability community here and we’d love this to be a big part of it. Right now it’s a small group of people doing it, but we’re slowly getting more and more, so we really want people to come out to Earth Day and find out how they can get involved with this effort.