Student organization wants cleaner water, less waste

While sitting in the Library one year ago, then-USF student Ferdian Jap noticed plastic water bottles pouring out of a trash can.

Concerned with the sight, he decided to do something about it.

“There were these plastic water bottles and plastic soda bottles that were literally overflowing out of a trash can,” Jap said. “In fact, there was one sitting on top because no more could fit.”

Jap brought an idea to his fellow members of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) club, an organization that promotes environmental sustainability on campus.

“We thought there should be a system where a student can just grab some water and also use their own refillable water bottle,” Jap said. “That’s where the whole idea for the water bottle project came from.”

With Jap’s observation in mind, SIFE started a project to reduce campus plastic waste, said SIFE member Eric Rosenthal, a senior majoring in management and finance.

SIFE received a $6,000 grant from Wal-Mart earlier this month. With it, the group plans to install 10 water filter attachments to existing drinking fountains so students can get cleaner water to fill their own water bottle, said SIFE project manager Kenneth Martey, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences. He said they would be installed in busy campus spots, including the Library, Marshall Student Center (MSC), Russell M. Cooper Hall and the Campus Recreation Center.

The fountain attachments filter the water through reverse osmosis, which heats the water, turns it into vapor, collects the vapor and turns it back into a liquid, Rosenthal said.

“Besides the landfills, the carbon footprint of the trucks, the chemicals used to sanitize the bottles is not good, and the water quality is just like tap water, so we saw a way to not only save the University and students’ money, but also help out the environment,”he said.

SIFE installed the first filtration system to a fountain in the Student Government office on the fourth floor of the MSC, Rosenthal said. He said that fountain was selected because students use it frequently.

“The fountains will take the water that is already there and make it fresher and colder,” Martey said.

Rosenthal said the maintenance and repair of each fountain is approximately $40 each month. He said SIFE can fund the filtration system project for three years with the Wal-Mart grant.

The organization has also applied for more grant money from other companies, he said.

Should SIFE receive more funding, they plan to use the money to help purchase reusable water bottles for students.

SIFE will launch an “Our Bottle” campaign in the fall 2010, when students can purchase a reusable USF steel water bottle for approximately $5, Rosenthal said.

SIFE hopes to sell the steel water bottles in the campus bookstore.