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Sustainability News: Bottles

SUNY Cortland Student Environmental Group Uses Plastic Bottles to Show Waste

By Scott Conroe, Staff Reporter, Cortland Standard (December 4, 2008)

SUNY Cortland senior Mark Morrell strings collected plastic bottles

SUNY Cortland senior Mark Morrell strings collected plastic bottles from trees outside Neubig Hall Wednesday with other Green Rep students to demonstrate the need to improve campus sustainability.

 Three trees in front of Neubig Hall on the SUNY Cortland campus took on a different look Wednesday, courtesy of students trying to make a point about bottled water.

The Green Reps, students who advocate for colleges to find ways to cut down energy use and trash in residence halls, tied plastic water bottles in the trees' lower branches using hemp twine.

The bottles will stay there until Friday afternoon, said physics professor Brice Smith, the group's faculty coordinator.

"We collected 1,800 bottles in the week before Thanksgiving in residence halls," Smith said. "The students wanted to show how much bottled water is consumed on campus and the other choices for getting water besides buying bottled."

Students and faculty could carry stainless steel liquid containers, for example, that could be filled at water fountains or other water sources.

Plastic water bottles have become a national issue. Their health safety has been questioned. The Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit, says eight out of 10 bottles end up in landfills or incinerated with garbage because rules about what can be recycled are unclear.

About 30 billion bottles are sold in the United States each year, the institute said.

The 15 Green Reps students were paid hourly this semester with funds provided by William Shaut, the College's vice president for finance and management, Smith said. The organization formed this semester. Other campuses have versions of it, sometimes called Eco Reps.

The students sponsored another project on Oct. 28 called Project Blackout, where they asked residence halls to turn off lights and electronic devices for one hour. The idea was to make students more aware of how much electricity they use.

Smith said about 50 percent of the students in some halls took part.