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Back to Tap
On the second day of orientation, as we all wandered sweaty and mildly confused to our next program, all of the first-years received a water bottle. It was fairly small, made of sturdy plastic with a screw lid and toned with WAC colors. Compared to the sleek Nalgenes and Camelbaks in bright hues and emblazoned with stickers I often see perched on the desks of my peers, it was hardly flashy. But it was a welcome gift on that hot summer day, and I give my thanks to those behind it: the SGA and especially the Student Environmental Alliance, who, among their many initiatives, are sharing with students positive alternatives to plastic water bottles.
SEA has an entire committee dedicated to educating students on the environmental detriments of disposable plastic water bottles. The Back to Tap Committee has been a brainchild of the club for a few years, since Kelly Dobroski ’16 (former SEA president) and Emily Cross-Barnet ’17 (current SEA president) came across the Ban the Bottle Campaign, a national organization advocating to ban single-use plastic water bottles and promoting reusable bottles. In spring 2016, a SEA task force was formed to brainstorm ideas; it has since evolved into the Back to Tap Committee, whose mission has remained largely unchanged since its conception: reduce the number of plastic bottles on campus, and present students with a better, cheaper, and more environmentally sustainable option — tap water.
Initially, it may seem strange. To many, tap water may be perceived as dirty or unsafe, but while there are certainly places where tap water is contaminated, Chestertown is luckily not among them. “Chestertown’s tap water exceeds EPA standards and is more than safe to drink,” says Kelsey McNaul ’18, co-chair of the Back to Tap Committee. Water fountains and refill stations located across campus also provide extra filtration.
Back to Tap is sharing the idea of a bottle-free campus and explaining how tap water is a cheaper and environmentally cleaner alternative. At last semester’s George Goes Green day, Back to Tap Committee members surveyed students about their plastic water bottle use. When they completed the survey, students got a free water bottle. The Committee also provided a taste test to see if students could tell the difference between tap water and bottled water. “They couldn’t really tell the difference,” says Emily Castle ’17, vice president of SEA. There was also a taste test between bottled water, unfiltered tap water, and water from the campus refill stations, and while most students could taste the difference in unfiltered tap water, there was little detectable difference between bottled water and water from the refill stations. Tap water also boasts one quality especially attractive to frugally- minded students: it’s free. “When you have an equally good or better product and it’s free,” says Cross-Barnet, “it seems like a no-brainer.”