Student seeks to ban sale of bottled water on campus

a pile of empty water bottles

Bottled water is easily found on campus. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice



After watching the documentary “Tapped” at least seven times, Washtenaw Community College student Austin Jackson knew something needed to be done about the dangers of bottled water. Where did he start his campaign to ban the sale of bottled water? Right here on WCC’s campus.

“‘Tapped’ is a great movie to introduce students to this issue,” Jackson said. “But, after the seventh time seeing it, I was basically like ‘I have to do something so I can stop seeing this damn movie all the time. Otherwise, if I don’t actively start enacting change, I’m just going to have to keep watching this movie over and over again. They say take action, so I thought I would take some action.”

Austin Jackson, 21, a liberal arts and sciences student from Canton hopes to ban bottled water on campus. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

Austin Jackson, 21, a liberal arts and sciences student from Canton hopes to ban bottled water on campus. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

In October 2015, Jackson began informing students on campus about the issue, along with discussing possible solutions with instructors in the biology and environmental science fields.

He’s raising awareness about not only the waste bottle water contributes to, but also the effects on the environment and human’s health. The chemical bisphenol, or BPA, is used to coat the inside of the plastic of the bottle. BPA has been criticized for being potentially harmful when ingested. Jackson says the chemical has been known to affect the brain’s hippocampus, which is associated with long-term memory in particular, and spatial navigation.

Bradley Metz, a WCC biology instructor who shows support for Jackson’s initiative, agrees with the negative effects caused by BPA.

“Depending on what (bottled water) company it is, the plastics they use leeches things like BPA back into the water,” Metz said. “Then you are getting things in your water that you really don’t want and you are buying bottled water thinking it is so great.”

The Water Project says that the “bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to biodegrade, and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes. It is estimated that over 80 percent of all single-use water bottles used in the U.S. simply become litter.”

Metz adds that since there is not a 10 cent return on bottled water, that adds to the waste in the environment, and while some do get recycled, a lot of people might just pitch them instead.

Jackson and Metz agree that banning the sale of bottled water on campus can be easily achieved. Students have other options including using the drinking fountains, some of which have filters and also bottle fillers to make it more convenient.

“It’s one of those things that once you do it for a certain amount of time, it becomes second nature,” Metz said.

Since Jackson started spreading the word on campus, he’s gained support from student organizations such as the Environmental Science Club and the Political Science Club. Joe Chapman, vice president of the PSC, has been helping a lot Jackson said.

“Joe Chapman has been an incredible help. He was a canvasser for Clean Water Action… and he was the one who contacted me first about banning bottled water, got me involved with the Political Science Club, and basically those people branched out and brought a bunch of people to help support,” Jackson said.

Recently, Jackson reached out to even more students by setting up a table in the Student Center and educating people about the topic. After two days, he received more than 80 student signatures for his petition. Between those signatures and the support he’s gained through social media, more than 100 people have responded to his cause.

“One of the more remarkable things that happened was the people who were more or less informed about the issue, after I talked to them, they ended up signing. It wasn’t just completely all support from people who already had a predisposition toward my initiative,” Jackson said.

While reaching out to students has been successful, he’s faced issues with getting support from the administration. After trying to get in contact with President Rose Bellanca numerous times, he says he has received little communication in return.

“Because I’m a student, I think I deserve a little time of day with my president, especially on an environmental issue,” Jackson said. “They’ve already done so much, like the solar power recycler, having a huge recycling program, and what they’ve done with compost, what’s one more thing? I think we would actually pull in some grants just by being a completely environmental school.”

Jackson continues to work toward completing his initiative by the time he graduates at the end of the semester. He’s looking for a successor to take on this task when he heads to Eastern Michigan University to pursue a bachelor’s in hydrology. Students at EMU are also trying to tackle the same issue. What started out as a one-man campaign has gained traction among WCC’s campus community.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t try to promote it,” Jackson said.


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