Goodbye Plastic Water Bottles

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2009) – Leave it to enterprising students from the University of South Florida to find a far-reaching and practical solution to bottled water waste. 


The USF branch of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) has come up with an award-winning idea that has earned $6,000 in support from Wal-Mart for a project that promises to help keep millions of plastic bottles out of landfills and save students well over a million dollars a year: free refreshing reverse osmosis filtered water available at popular locations around campus and inexpensive refillable bottles.  The Wal-Mart Market 111 grant is funding installation of the filtration systems.


“This project aims to help promote awareness about and reduce the consumption of plastic water bottles as well as help the USF community make environmentally sustainable personal and business decisions,” said Dameion Lovett, assistant director in the Department of USF Scholarships and Financial Aid Services, who serves as SIFE advisor.  “This is all in support of USF’s commitment to fight global warming.”


The idea began taking shape when members of the SIFE team noticed a trash can filled to the brim with plastic water bottles.  Team members then set off on a mission to combat the plastic waste problem and change students’ behavior. 


After conducting an online survey to gauge interest among USF’s students, faculty and staff, results indicated the potential for tremendous impact by installing custom use water systems in high traffic areas.  SIFE estimates over 22,000 students would obtain overall savings of $1,746,158 and save over two million plastic bottles from being dumped into landfills each year.  A test machine was installed and water bottles were passed out to test the idea further.


“Field testing yielded positive and encouraging results,” Lovett said.  “Then the team won $250 for the project by placing first in a poster contest at the Going Green Tampa Bay Expo 2009.  Now the grant from Wal-Mart will be used to install six systems on campus with the direct goals of decreasing the carbon footprint of packaging and transporting bottled water, reducing plastic waste in landfills and saving students, faculty and staff money in tough economic times.”


Lovett and the SIFE team expect the machines to be installed after the first of the year.  They are working on gaining further financial support for the project and have received endorsements from the USF Office of Sustainability and the Office of Strategic Initiatives.  


"The next step is to get these systems in place and implement a 'Refill-a-bull Our Bottle’ program with reusable metal water containers – similar to Student Government’s ‘Our Shirt’ concept, at a cost of only five dollars,” Lovett said.  “The team is also seeking corporate sponsors to help provide the reusable bottles to USF students.”


SIFE is a global organization active in over 1,500 colleges in 40 countries that promotes six key educational criteria: market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, environmental sustainability and business ethics. SIFE students implement programs that impact members of their communities. To assist SIFE at USF in its endeavors or for more information, contact Eric Rosenthal at (727) 560-3546. SIFE at USF is a registered non-profit organization.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.