Gregory Francese is a student DJ and an environmental activist. He uses the airwaves at the University of Vermont to get his message out about bottled water.
For the last four years, Francese and his colleagues at the Vermont Student Environmental Program, or VSTEP, have battled to take back the tap by stopping the sale of bottled water on campus. With UVM's beverage contract with Coca-Cola nearing its end, these student activists got their first taste of victory.
"The administration decided that with this existing exclusive contract expiring that it was time for us to do it," said Richard Cate, the vice president for finance and administration at UVM.
"This is student activism success," Francese said. "I mean we've had our problems. We've had our setbacks. We've had people tell us it can't happen."
But starting January 2013, the sale of bottled water from UVM's vending machines and campus eateries will be banned. The administration says the new policy is sure to put a dent in the more than 1 million bottled beverages it sells annually. UVM says it will save 200,000 water bottles each year by doing away with water bottles sales on campus.
"We believe that we can provide good, cold, fresh water here in Vermont without having to purchase it from some other place," Cate said.
The plan is to retrofit all 75 water fountains on campus. They'll be converted to bottle filling stations like one in the Davis Center. The project comes with a $100,000 price tag-- an investment the administration says is money well spent. But the taste of tap remains a concern for some students.
"Bottled water to me always tastes a lot smoother and there isn't an aftertaste," said Jesse Mosello, a freshman.
Francese disagrees and says the perceived taste difference is a marketing scam; one that he works to dispel with his public service announcements. He says the policy is a bold move that puts the university ahead of its time.
"You're going to see a lot more of this in the future, in workplaces and universities, people in general just not buying bottled water because they're going to realize how wasteful it is," Francese said.
Although this college senior will never see the policy in action, it's a legacy he's proud to be a part of.
The new policy also calls for one-third of drinks offered in vending machines to be healthy options.
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