Officials advanced their commitment to eliminate single-use plastics on campus Wednesday, announcing plans to install a new line of water-bottle filling stations and remove plastic bottles from vending machines on campus.
Students, faculty and staff will also receive free reusable water bottles from the University to remind them about the commitment as part of an “awareness campaign” that officials will unveil this fall, according to a University-wide email from Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mark Diaz. The email states that the new sustainability measures fall under a policy that the University will launch July 1 to inform GW community members about University restrictions and guidance on single-use plastics.
Diaz said officials will install at least one bottle-filling station, or “hydration station,” in every University building as well as at “convenient pedestrian outdoor locations,” like Kogan Plaza. He said the plastic bottles that were stored in vending machines have already been replaced with cans or glass bottles that can be recycled after use.
“Eliminating single-use plastics is a transformative and industry-leading initiative, and GW is at the vanguard of this movement in higher education,” Diaz said in the email. “Others have followed and will continue to follow our lead.”
Diaz organized a task force last fall to develop plans to eliminate single-use plastics with help from officials across six departments, and GW announced its official commitment to the initiative this February as the first university to do so.
He said the bottle-filling stations should serve as reminders about the initiative and encourage University community members to partake in the commitment. The stations will be “tied and connected” to a brand developed by the University’s marketing and design teams, Diaz added.
“The idea is to just serve as reminders that this is hopefully the new norm, and so each time they see the brand or a hydrating station, they understand we’re serious about this and we’ll reinforce it in many different ways,” Diaz said in an interview.
Diaz said the commitment will “have broad, positive implications” for GW’s efforts to improve sustainability on campus.
Single-use plastics that officials recommend avoiding – including plastic utensils, straws, bags and other items – will be replaced by “available alternatives,” according to the University’s single-use plastic policy. Diaz said all contracted GWorld vendors will be required to adhere to the policy, meaning restaurants will need to try finding alternatives to single-use plastics that they serve, like forks, knives and wrappers.
“Individuals in the GW community should take all reasonable efforts to avoid using single-use plastics on GW property where alternatives are available,” the policy reads. “The University expects individuals in the GW community to contribute to the elimination of single-use plastics on GW property and comply with this policy to the greatest extent possible.”
University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said officials removed single-use plastics from vending machines in several residence halls back in January – including Shenkman, South, Lafayette and Francis Scott Key halls, District and Potomac houses, the Dakota and 1959 E Street. She said single-use plastics had been removed from “the rest of the machines” by the end of March.
“We prioritized the residence halls our students were living in during the spring semester,” she said.