In its first year as an official committee under the Student Government Inc. constitution, the Sustainability Committee is working towards new initiatives, with an emphasis on reducing the use of plastic on campus.
The chair of the newly-formed committee is third-year student Irene Gorosave. Studying environmental science and government and politics, Gorosave works with three student assistant chairs; Gabrielle Fehter, Michelle Chin and Angela Abbatiello.
The committee is currently working on initiatives to eliminate plastic bottles and plastic bags on the St. John’s campus. “We don’t just want to remove it,” Gorosave said. “We want to offer a solution, to offer an alternative.”
Working with the committee members and assistant chairs, Gorosave described the plan as a “work in progress.”
“Essentially what we need to do first is to collect data,” Gorosave said. “Thankfully, the wonderful people from the Research and Development committee of SGI are going to help us create surveys to see where the students stand on this issue.”
Per the committee, the idea is to increase the use of reusable bottles and potentially switch from plastic to boxed water bottles.
Often purchased by students or through meal exchanges during dining hours, the Dasani Water bottle is seen all over campus. Dasani, owned by the Coca-Cola Company, will have its relationship with the university reviewed, the committee acknowledges. Contracts with Coca-Cola, as well as any partnerships they may have with St. John’s catering company Chartwells, will also be evaluated.
“We are waiting on the Committee of Student Services and we’re waiting on a meeting with Chartwells,” Gorosave said. “It’s all interconnected.”
Including Dasani, The Coca-Cola Company owns Vitamin Water, Smart Water and Ciel mineralized water. Coca-Cola markets Dasani bottles as being made from 30 percent plants and is 100 percent recyclable.
Students in the committee hope that by offering more sustainable alternatives, students won’t be as reliant on the plastic water bottles.
“Even if we’re not able to move forward as far as removing the plastic bottles, we’re fine with giving out more of these reusable water bottles and perhaps offer more of these fillable water fountains on campus,” Gorosave said. “We think students are more inclined to use these options than just the plastic water bottles.
Senior Tamara Garcia was excited about the committee’s initiative and wants to see more water refill stations on campus.
“Definitely no plastic water bottles. They should work on having more water bottle stations.” Garcia said
Assistant Chair Fehter wants students to know that there are more options than plastic water bottles.
“There are other options available and we hope every student has a chance to use them,” Fehter said.
Gorosave and the committee were inspired by the Sustainability Committee at Virginia Tech University. In 2013, they offered reusable water bottles to all their students as a way to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles on their campus.
This past Monday, the collected plastic water bottles were put to use at the “Planting a Sustainable Future” program sponsored by SGI and the Sustainability Committee. During the event, students planted herb seeds in old Dasani water bottles to take home while giving out reusable water bottles as well.
Freshman Lila Taher didn’t know about the new SGI committee, but is excited to see more programs like this one on campus.
“I think it’s very smart and helpful to the community,” Taher said. “I’m definitely more used to the reusable water bottle than plastic ones.”
Garcia was excited to reuse the water bottles in a beneficial way and thinks St. John’s is behind on the initiative to eliminate plastic waste.
“I think it’s amazing that SGI and the sustainability committee are working on this, I know that other schools do that. I think we’re behind and it’s great that they’re getting it started.”
Over 300 water bottles were given away and thirty plus personal plants were made.
Supported by SGI members and its executive board, the Sustainability Committee is hoping to get the support from senior members and groups on campus.
“It’s all about talking to the higher-ups and not giving up when they tell us no,” Gorosave said, explaining the meetings the committee had with Student Affairs.
According to Gorosave, director of environmental & energy conservation Tom Goldsmith has been very helpful in the committee’s other initiatives. Those include programs such as Recycle-A-Thon, the long-term recycling competition between universities.
Still in the planning and research stages, the committee urges any interested student to join.
“Anyone is welcome to join,” Gorosave said. “And we want to hear more voices.”