Beyond the Bottle was formed in February, 2009, when a few members of the environmental student group emPOWER Brown, partially inspired by the bottled water ban at Washington University in St. Louis, decided that going bottle-free was a worthwhile campaign.
BtB Semester 1: Spring 2009
In our first months, we focused on awareness efforts and partnership with Brown Dining Services (BDS). We held blind taste test challenges on our Main Green and hosted movie screenings. Our biggest success was a project, in partnership with BDS, at Josiah’s, an on-campus fast food eatery that accounts for 25% of bottled water sales. For our pilot month of April, we had a table in the seating area every night, handing out brochures and inviting people to sign up for our listserv. BDS allowed us to post signs in the servery encouraging customers to choose tap water over bottled water. At the end of the semester, we learned that we had achieved a 35 to 40% reduction in bottled water sales at Jo’s. Finally, we handed out an info sheet at a meeting of the Brown University Community Council (BUCC), a body representing students, staff, faculty, the graduate school, and the medical school, letting them know who we were, what we were up to, and that we would be back to make a formal presentation in the fall.
BtB Semester 2: Fall 2009
When we got back to campus in the fall, we jumped right in with a Water Carnival on the Main Green, featuring a trivia game, water pong, the taste test challenge, free tap water, and more. BtB grew in size, until we were the largest subgroup of emPOWER, with anywhere from 12-25 people at a given meeting. We established a Steering Committee to better direct our efforts. We held a screening of the brand new documentary Tapped; in the weeks leading up to the screening, we tabled in the mailroom, soliciting signatures for our pledge and advertising for the move. We wound up getting over 300 signatures, and over 100 students and community members attended Tapped.
In November, we met with President Ruth Simmons and asked her for her support and to establish a task force charged with implementing the elimination of bottled water and the improvement of our tap water infrastructure. She agreed to both. A few days later, we came back to the BUCC and made a presentation, as promised. The BUCC passed a resolution moving, among other things, “that students, faculty and staff work as soon as possible to the complete elimination of bottled water.” In mid-December 2009, the Task Force on Bottled Water at Brown met for the first time, and is, as of this writing, working to eliminate bottled water as quickly as possible.