During the introduction days 2016, the Green Office VU started the ‘PET-water free University 2018’ project. Together with Dopper, we strive to make the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam the first PET-water free university of the Netherlands.
During the Introduction days we’ve participated in the Sustainable Introduction Stunt (NL: Duurzame Introductie Stunt/DIS), a competition organized by Studenten voor Morgen in which study- and student associations compete for the most sustainable introduction stunt and we won! In our Sustainable Introduction Stunt students could trade their PET-bottles for a sustainable Dopper-bottle alternative! In return they could transform their old PET bottle into a small garden, which ended up in a vertical garden. The Green Living Lab helped us out with the garden construction.
The message of the stunt was to create awareness about the impact of PET-bottles on the environment. We want to inspire the VU-Community to start using alternatives. Vice-president Marjolein Jansen of the Executive Board: ‘The quality of tap water is great in the Netherlands, and we need to be apprehensive about our water consumption. The plastic needed to create water bottles puts not only a threat on healthy and potable water, but also on the flora and fauna on land and in the sea. Decreasing the amount of PET used is something we can achieve together. VU means looking further; let’s also look further in this case, and consciously think about the choices we make’.
Dopper embraces our ambition of a PET-water free university in 2018. On a world-wide scale, they combat single-use plastic. Restricting the use of this material at universities forms an important point in this battle. We’re happy to have Dopper on board in our combat against PET-water bottles!
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What’s so bad about using PET?
To keep it short, the production of PET…
- uses a lot of oil;
- emits tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) via production as well as transportation;
- creates tons of waste and consequently PET litters everywhere;
- kills the inhabitants of the ocean;
- ends up in our bodies as it moves up the foodchain.
For a more elaborate answers, check out http://www.hydratelife.org/?p=767
Or check out this TED Talk about seas of plastic by Charles Moore!
What is the connection between banning PET and creating a garden out of the bottles?
To kick-off the ‘2018: PET-water free University’ campaign we aligned it with the DIS stunt-competition. The team was brainstorming about a creative and interactive way of informing students about the downsides of using PET, and we got inspired by the artwork ‘The World of Litter’ by Peter Smith. We sat down together with the Green Living Lab team to brainstorm about possibilities, and inspired by their green surroundings they came up with the idea of a vertical garden. We loved this idea and decided to go with it.
FYI: this does not mean that we want to promote buying plastic bottles to make a garden. We want promote that we should stop wasting plastic.
The Green Office VU decided to team up with Dopper because…
- we support their mission. Dopper’s mission is ‘to achieve a world in which people are conscious of the environment we live in, where the amount of single-use plastic is reduced and where everyone, near and far, has access to safe drinking water’;
- they are a social enterprise: their primary goal isn’t profit, but a positive impact for a better world;
- they received the first cradle to cradle certificate for bottles. Doppers are produced in the Netherlands, there are no toxins used in the bottle, damaged Dopper parts can be returned for free to recycle, and if you break a component it can even be fixed!
For more information, check out https://dopper.com/
I use my PET-water bottle for a long time before replacing it. Is this also alright?
There are two main reasons not to reuse your PET-water bottle:
- Even if you use your PET-water bottle multiple times, chances are very big that it ends up in nature. Just 5% of plastics are recycled effectively, whilst 40% ends up in landfill and a third in fragile ecosystems (The Guardian, 2016).
- Commercial bottled water manufacturers don’t recommend that consumers reuse their disposable bottles, because “everyday wear and tear from repeated washings and reuse can lead to physical breakdown of the plastic, such as visible thinning or cracks. Bacteria can harbor in the cracks, posing a health risk” (The Huffington Post, 2014).
Why not ban PET bottles all together?
First things first! Water runs through the tap and is easily available without using PET-bottles. If you want to drink a coke, it already becomes a little bit more difficult. In the long run, the ideal situation would be a completely PET-free university, but our first goal will be banning PET-water.
Are there more PET-free universities?
Definitely! There are a couple of dozen universities that pledged for a water bottle free university. Most of them are found in the USA or Canada. For an elaborate overview of these universities, check out https://www.banthebottle.net/map-of-campaigns/.
Some European universities are also working on it, such as Sheffield in the UK. Let’s continue this movement in the Netherlands!
The Guardian (19-01-2016). More plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, says Ellen MacArthur. Url: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/19/more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-sea-by-2050-warns-ellen-macarthur
The Huffington Post (14-08-2014). What you need to know before you reuse that plastic water bottle. Url: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/reuse-plastic-water-bottle_n_5671681.html