Q&A with CMU’s Environmental Leaders

GCM writer, Catey Traylor sat down with two of Central Michigan University’s environmental leaders to discuss their mission to green campus through Take Back the Tap (TBTT), and the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA).

Sam shows off her assortment of reusable drink containers. (Brooke Whitten | Grand Central Magazine)

Taking Back the Tap One Bottle at a Time

Name: Sam Schleich, president of Take Back the Tap at CMU

Year: Senior

Major: Environmental Science and Political Science

Tell us about Take Back the Tap!

SS: Take Back the Tap highlights the issues consumers should be aware of when they choose to buy bottled water, including how bottled water harms the environment, how it is an unregulated industry, and how expensive it is.

What are your goals for Take Back the Tap?
SS: Take Back the Tap is aiming to pass legislation through the Student Government Association this semester that calls for a ban on the sale of bottled water at Central Michigan University starting in the fall of 2011. We are also raising money to purchase retro-fit kits for drinking fountains on campus that will make water fountains easier to use for students who are filling their water bottles.

What do you think is Take Back the Tap’s biggest challenge right now?
SS: At the moment, the biggest challenge is finding effective ways to reach out to students, staff, and faculty on Central’s campus.  That’s why we’re holding an event series called “A Week Without [Bottled] Water.” We’re asking students to boycott bottled water sales for one week on campus, instead donating the money they would have spent on bottled water to Take Back the Tap. All proceeds donated during this week will go directly towards funding retro-fit kits for next school year.

Buying and drinking from water bottles is arguably a habit for many CMU students; what is the most relevant reason you can use to encourage students to drink from the tap?

SS: The money spent buying bottled water! Each bottle of water costs an average of $1.50, whether it’s purchased in a vending machine or a convenience store on campus.  What most students don’t realize is that buying 2-3 bottles of water a week, every week during the school year, can build up. If every student thought about that before they spent $1.50 on a bottle of water, I doubt they would want to continue buying bottled water.

Who hasn't seen Take Back the Tap's stickers plastered all over campus? (Brooke Whitten | Grand Central Magazine)

You’ve featured a lot of film showings thus far. Are there any other educational methods you want to use in the near future?

SS: Week Without [Bottled] Water series, beginning April 18 and ending April 23 will be our largest community outreach. On Monday, April 18, TBTT will screen Tapped at 7PM in the UC Auditorium.  On Tuesday, April 19, TBTT will host a panel of speakers both for and against ending the sale of bottled water at CMU. Both Wednesday and Thursday, April 20-21, TBTT members will be at a variety of locations around campus getting petition signatures signed.  On Earth Day, Friday April 22, TBTT will be at the Earth Day celebration put on by the Student Environmental Alliance in the courtyard between Pearce and Anspach Halls. We’ll be holding a taste test, asking if individuals can tell the difference between bottled and tap water.  Finally, TBTT will be on site at the Chip River Run, Saturday April 23, to hand out water to runners and help educate the general Mount Pleasant community about how water privatization and bottled water affect communities and the environment. At all of these events TBTT will be collecting donations to help fund the purchase of retro-fit kits for water fountains next semester.

Sam wants you to know…
-The production of bottled water consumes enough oil to fuel over 1 million cars in the U.S. each year!
-Bottled water is monitored by only one person at the FDA, but tap water is monitored by the EPA and is checked nearly every day by water quality experts.
-Consumers spend almost 2,000 times more on bottled water than they would spend on tap water.
Fan Take Back the Tap on Facebook!

Attend and get more information on A Week Without (Bottled) Water!


Student Environmental Alliance, Where Individuals Make a Difference

"We need to realize that our individual story matters." (Brooke Whitten | Grand Central Magazine)

Name: Chloe Gleichman, president of the Student Environmental Alliance

Year: Freshman

Majors: Biology and Environmental Studies

How did you become involved in the Student Environmental Alliance?
CG: It all started in high school when I noticed a beautiful area of land on my drive to school every day. They were going to put a huge Walmart on it. The community tried to fight it but was unable to. Every day, I’d watch this huge building go up brick by brick and it made me upset. Right then and there, I decided to do something in college to change situations like this…
What are your goals for SEA?
CG: We are attending a huge event coming up April 15th -18th called Power Shift. It’s a nationwide conference for youth about clean energy. Four SEA members went to training in Chicago and learned to train people in grass roots organization, and we’re presenting this at Power Shift. This is a huge campaign opportunity and we really hope to get the word out about our organization. We also plan to be more active on campus next year, and hope to learn a lot from this conference!
What is the biggest thing stopping CMU students from making a difference in the environment?
CG: I think students need to become more aware of the issues around them! We need to start caring and realize the only power we have over organizations is money and support. If we tell them what we want, the power becomes ours.

What do you think is SEA’s biggest challenge right now?
CG: There is a lot of opposition and people who don’t know or care about environmental issues. Just working with those attitudes and figuring out how to inspire a sustainable mindset within these people is a huge struggle.

Do you think students are generally aware of environmental issues?
CG: I think there are a lot of students who are aware. I’ve met a lot of cool people who really do care. A large amount of people don’t know, but I don’t necessarily think it’s their fault.

What advice do you have for students who are trying to be more environmentally friendly?
CG: It all starts with an individual choice. I think little things like recycling and turning off your lights matter, and we need to realize that as individuals we can make a difference. We need to realize that our individual story matters.

How can people get involved with SEA?
CG: We have meetings Wednesdays at 7:00 in Brooks 305. We have a Twitter, blog and email. Just get in contact with us and we can make things happen.

Check SEA out on Orgsync, find them on Twitter or email cmu.sea@gmail.com!