Take Back The Tap taking its case to university officials soon

Take Back The Tap never had much luck with the Student Government Association Senate.

That is, until last October, when CM Life previously reported the Senate finally got on board with the House and passed a resolution that calls for the phasing out of bottled water sales on campus by an 11-5 vote.

"It was important for us to meet with each senator to appeal to the colleges they represented," said Mariah Urueta, Waterford sophomore and vice president of Take Back The Tap. "There are different senators every year, which allowed us to treat this year as a fresh slate."

Now, the group is looking to further take their case to university officials.

Take Back The Tap is a resilient student environmentalist group that stomped its way into the middle of the university's conscience, where it has remained for the past four years.

TBTT's aim is for Central Michigan University to become one of the 90 campuses in the United States to ban or restrict the sale of bottled water. To do that, changes would need to be made to some of the most profitable contracts CMU has, including those with Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

Iron Mountain junior Krista Testolin, president of CMU's chapter of Take Back The Tap, said the first time they presented the request to the university, they were disregarded.

"(Thomas) Trionfi (CMU's director of contracting and purchasing services) said that we needed student approval," Testolin said. "And, without student approval, there wasn't much the university was willing to do."

To be recognized by the university for having student support, one needs to get a motion passed through both the SGA House and Senate, which takes a majority vote of approval from both bodies.

With approval from the SGA, Take Back The Tap now feels it has the ability to start negotiating with the university for a revised contract. According to the SGA resolution, the change will have to involve a gradual phase-out of bottled water on campus.

"This was a long time coming," Testolin said. "Now, we can confidently present this to the university."

Four years ago, TBTT started small. It had only seven members when Sam Schleich, the group's founder, organized TBTT after getting involved with an internship in Chicago called Food and Water Watch. During the internship, Schleich learned about the detrimental effects bottled water has on the environment.

The group has since grown to more than 40 members, with 25 consistent participants.

TBTT's former Treasurer Sarah McNeill said it hasn't always been easy for Take Back The Tap, which has faced opposition from some in the student body and the university.

"Working so hard on a project without knowing what the results will be is challenging," the Massachusetts senior said. "Staying positive, optimistic and focused is something that TBTT has mastered."

Trifoni said last February that CMU would not change the contracts to ban bottled water until 2017, when the contracts come up for renewal.

This position, Trionfi said, has not changed, even with student support.

"While our contracts do allow for us to determine what we want sold in them, we would prefer to not adversely impact our partners unnecessarily," Trionfi said in a statement. "That is, if the majority of CMU students supported Take Back The Tap's agenda, it would reflect in bottled water sales both through vending and stores...and both Pepsi and Coke would reduce their availability on their own."

Take Back The Tap officials, though, feel more optimistic about their chances.

"We want to pass our amendment before 2017; that has been our goal, and, with student support, we feel that we have the evidence and support to push for that amendment," Urueta said. "We're planning on meeting with him really soon, and we're hoping something positive can come out of that meeting."

Urueta said the sales of bottled water have decreased, and the response from Pepsi and Coke has not been sufficient.

"We have shown the evidence; bottled water has decreased substantially since 2010, and supplies on campus have not decreased," Urueta said.

McNeill is confident that if amendments do not occur until 2017, Take Back The Tap will still be a prominent force.

"Take Back the Tap knows how to persevere when faced with opposition," McNeill said. "If we did not, we would have given up after our first and second attempts at passing our legislation to SGA"


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