Filed under: Event Planning, Water | Tags: bottled water, environment, stainless steel canteen, take back the tap, tap water
There’s a major facet of BMUN’s greening efforts that I’d like to tell you a bit about today. It has to do with something you may use on a daily basis, but most of us probably don’t think twice about. However, eliminating this product is one of the easiest ways that ALL of us can “green” our living habits. Any ideas? It’s bottled water! One of BMUN’s big goals this year is to eliminate the use of bottled water throughout the conference.
Some of you may be wondering what’s so bad about bottled water. After all, the ads tell you it’s cheap, convenient, and healthy, right? Well here’s a few facts for you to consider.
If you think packaged bottled water is cheap at about 20 oz for $1, you’re wrong. At this price, it’s more expensive than gasoline! There are 128 oz in a gallon, and at today’s Californian average of $2.73 a gallon – which is way cheaper than it was even a month ago , well, you do the math. You’re paying at least $6 a gallon for that convenient tote-able disposable bottled water. Not only that, bottled water is exorbitantly expensive when compared to tap water. Get this: an equivalent amount of 20 oz of tap water costs around 1/500 of a cent. That makes bottled water literally thousands of times more expensive than water from the tap.
As for the convenience of bottled water, that’s also a constructed concept. Just a generation ago, bottled water was not a marketable product. But major soft drink companies decided to begin advertising the idea for a major profit, and now it’s become commonplace in American society. The commodification of bottled water has wreaked havoc on our environment since its introduction into convenience stores and gas stations. Did you know that as much as 86% of water bottles} don’t make it to the recycling bin? Furthermore, the shipping of plastic water bottles across transnational boundaries just so that we can sip spring water from a faraway country’s idyllic springs is craziness when we have such high quality water coming from the tap. Shipping emissions generated in bottled water’s transport are contributing heavily to the carbon footprint of this unsustainable good, and even the plastic it’s packaged in required the use of petroleum. There are lots of negative externalities associated with the production and transportation of water bottles that you might not realize when you buy that shiny clean plastic bottle off the shelf of your local supermarket.
Finally, bottled water is not healthier for you than tap water, nor is it safer. That’s another misconception encouraged by the bottled water companies. Municipal tap water is typically tested thousands of times per month for a level of quality that meets the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. By comparison, bottled water is regulated by the understaffed and overworked Food and Drug Administration, and there are restrictions as to what bottles it tests and how often.
Okay, enough, I’m sold! What’s the solution, you ask? Well, try a re-useable canteen or thermos! It’s just about the same size as a water bottle, so it’s portable, but not nearly as polluting. The cost of a nice stainless steel canteen will pay for itself after about 10 uses, and you can feel happy in the knowledge that it’s much greener in the long-term than a disposable plastic bottle. Klean Kanteen makes some really good ones that are sold everywhere from sustainably minded grocery stores to outdoors / recreational fitness shops. OR (warning: shameless plug for our product here) you can come buy one of our beautiful stainless steel canteens with the BMUN logo at the conference! They’ll be on sale throughout the conference weekend for the price of only $10! They’re really good-looking, too.
That’s all from me for now. Let me know if you have questions or comments!
Filed under: Event Planning, Food, Waste diversion | Tags: campus services, Delegate Workshop, Event Planning
I’m happy to report that I think the sustainability measures we implemented at the Delegate Workshop went very well yesterday! Some things went very well, and others I think can be improved on, but overall this was a great learning experience for me as someone new to the whole business of “green event-planning.”
Not everything ran perfectly smoothly, of course. I spent hours dealing with different on-campus departments to place an order for waste diversion bins. There was some confusion with the UC Berkeley campus recycling service over when I had placed the order – over two weeks before the date of the workshop! - and how many bins of each type I’d ordered - four recycling bins and one composting bin -, and how much it was going to cost – originally free, then later almost $100, then down to $12. But everything got taken care of in the end, when a very helpful head supervisor of the campus service promised me the night before the workshop that, despite some bureaucratic interdepartmental confusion, the bins would be in place the next morning. And they showed up! After worrying that all my hours of haggling might have proven worthless, I was pleasantly surprised.
In order to make best use of the bins, my staff and I also posted up lots of signs the morning of the workshop, instructing everyone on what could be deposited into each type of bin. We made signs directing visitors to the working water fountains (see my earlier blog on this subject here), but not all the signs made it up, unfortunately. Still, a good practice session for the much bigger conference.
In addition to the bins, both the advisors’ lounge and the secretariat lounge had breakfast foods available, with many thanks to USG of Special Events, Erin. We got to use some of our new compostable utensils and materials here. We are still using up some of the leftover plates and cups and things from last year’s conference stash, though, so our conversion to sustainable silverware is not yet complete.
Using the Delegate Workshop of about 200 attendees as a “practice run” for the Conference in February, I think I have some new ideas on what will work best next semester. I’m excited to keep learning and planning. If you attended the Workshop and have any questions, comments or suggestions for me about how to improve any aspect of the sustainability of BMUN’s conference, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below!
Filed under: Food, Sustainable purchases, Waste diversion | Tags: compost, recycling, waste, WorldCentric
Here at BMUN, we hold weekly meetings to prepare for the big events we put on: the Delegate Workshop in the fall, and the Conference in the Spring. Dinner is served at most meetings, and 60 people can easily generate a lot of waste – like soda bottles, leftover food scraps, and one-time-use utensils and plates. So in order to adhere with our newly adopted goal of waste diversion, we’ve begun putting out collection bags for recyclables and compostables, next to the trash can. At the end of each of our weekly meetings, we deposit our collected compost waste and recyclables in an on-campus bin.
What exactly is composting, you might ask? Once relegated to the backyards of tree-hugging environmentalists, it’s become increasingly common in areas throughout California in the last decade. The Bay Area has been at the forefront of this trend, distributing green bins to the residents of Berkeley to collect food wastes ranging from wilting vegetables to egg shells to leftover sandwich crusts – stuff you’d normally toss in the trash but which can actually be diverted to composting facilities to be processed into rich organic fertilizer. Food-soiled paper products (like napkins and paper plates) can also be composted easily. UC Berkeley has embraced this practice, and there are now big green composting bins available outside of every dining hall on campus.
But we at BMUN also decided to take it one step further. In addition to collecting and separating our trash into food leftovers, metal and glass recyclables, and plastic trash, we opted to place an order through WorldCentric for compostable utensils and eating materials – everything from plates and bowls to cups, spoons and coffee lids. The difference about these compostable materials is that they are made out of organic materials – things like corn and potato starch, or bagasse which is derived from sugar cane. This way, we’re avoiding the use of paper plates (often made of virgin materials), styrofoam cups and plastic disposable utensils, which can take hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade, often leaving behind harmful leached chemicals in the earth. For more information on compostable materials, check out WorldCentric’s FAQs.
Our order from WorldCentric came in this week, and we’ll be using the materials at the Delegate Workshop in just a few days. Be sure to check it out, and ask me on the day of the workshop if you have any questions! We’ll have some signs up about what can be composted. That’s all for now! See you on Saturday.
Filed under: Event Planning, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: compost, Delegate Workshop, recycling, UC Berkeley, water fountains
So BMUN’s Delegate Workshop is coming up in just one week – on October 18th, 2008. I have been busily running around trying to make preparations, since we are expecting around 200 attendees! Our lovely Undersecretary General of Logistics, Taumoha, has secured Wheeler Hall as the location for the workshop, so my first order of business was to check out the venue. I’ve been in this building countless times in my undergraduate years – it is the location of the largest lecture hall on campus, after all – but inspecting it as sustainability coordinator meant I had to see the building in a new light.
First, I checked out the water fountains in each of the four halls where participants would be located. Would they work? It turns out that about 80% of them were functional, and at least one worked in each hall, which is better than I had expected. I wanted to make sure that attendees of the workshop had an alternative to buying packaged water. Generally speaking, it’s common in university lecture halls to see vending machines stocked with dozens of plastic water bottles, and as a result, students often seem to forget it’s an option to drink from the tap. Faucets come into disrepair, and the university doesn’t see an urgent need to fix the problem since so few students rely on them for drinking water anyways. (I’m not swayed by the marketing schemes of the water bottles companies though, especially since I now carry my BMUN canteen around with me when I’m on campus!)
UC Berkeley is notably ahead of the curve in this regard. They just launched their I Heart Tap Water campus campaign that is working to raise students’ consciousness about Berkeley tap water. There is actually a Community Nutrition class that is assessing all of the campus’s broken fountains this semester! So cool.
Anyways, back to my inspection. I also wanted to see where the best places would be to locate waste facilities. Through the campus’s Recycling and Refuse Services we are planning to have recycling and compost bins delivered to the building on Saturday morning so that we can achieve greater waste diversion. Both the advisor and secretariat lounges will have food available, and I want to make sure that they know where, how, and what to compost and recycle.
Greening these type of events is really important to the overall long-term sustainability of BMUN in our community. I just learned recently that event-planning is considered the second-most polluting sector of industry, coming after only waste-and-demolition (!) I know, shocking, right? So I feel now more than ever that these steps will be necessary to keeping BMUN’s impact on the community minimal. I will be sure to let you all know how the event goes next weekend!
Filed under: Sustainable purchases, Waste diversion, Water | Tags: canteen, tap water, Tuxedo Ranch, water bottle
As part of our effort to make BMUN as sustainable as possible, one of our big goals for this year was to educate the club’s members and participants of the conference on the fallacy of bottled water. So, we placed a big order for re-usable stainless steel canteens, and they just arrived a few days ago! All of our secretariat will be carrying the bottles, and they will be available for purchase at the upcoming Delegate Workshop as well as the Conference next year.
We placed our order with Tuxedo Ranch, a supplier of many environmentally friendly products ranging from canteen water bottles to sustainable apparel, and the order came out beautifully. The canteens are a deep sapphire blue, with the BMUN logo displayed brilliantly on one side in a crisp white. The top of the bottle has a small lip for convenience of use, and features a looped lid that can easily be hooked on to just about anything. So far we love them!
There are several reasons we decided that this would make a good purchase for the club. First, because we want to encourage everyone to consider replacing their bottled water with tap water. Bottled water has immense externalized costs, ranging from transnational shipping (from places as remote as Fiji) and the petroleum-based production of plastic, to the social costs of extracting water from communities for the purposes of commodification. Secondly, because eliminating bottled water means that fewer plastic bottles end up in the trash can or recycling bin, which builds on one of our primary goals of waste diversion in BMUN. And finally, because tap water is delicious – and just as safe as bottled water. To learn more about why you should try the tap, check out Food and Water Watch’s informative site here. (I’m going to write a separate blog just on bottled water sometime in the future. Check back soon!)
That’s all from me for now. Check for an update from me soon about our plans for the upcoming Delegate Workshop!