URI student project asks campus to ditch bottled water

Effort part of Grand Challenge course on global public health

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 29, 2011 – Individuals who drink bottled water products might want to hear what University of Rhode Island freshman Bill Law and his classmates have to say.

That’s because the students have learned that the bottled water process may sometimes allow companies to inappropriately acquire and market this vital resource worldwide. Their product is then packaged, transported and sold at a profit.

Law, a resident of Charlestown, and his classmates are enrolled in one of URI’s Grand Challenge classes, entitled “Be the Solution for Global Public Health Problems.”

Instituted last year, the 30 interdisciplinary Grand Challenge courses have small enrollments and are taught by full-time faculty members. They focus on major global challenges, such as poverty, diversity, hunger and climate change, and they have intriguing titles like “Media and Race Relations,” “The Weight is Over,” “The Future of Families,” “Heavy Metal,” and “Earth Gone Mad?”

One group in this fall’s global public health honors course is focusing on water-borne diseases and their relationship to water supply depletion. To call attention to the problem in small ways, the students will hold a water bottle sale to encourage URI community members to fill the bottles with tap water and reuse them.

“The grand challenge classes are designed specifically to engage first-year students in learning about big issues in the world and then proposing viable and achievable solutions,” said Don DeHayes, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at URI.

“Our assessment of student engagement and learning from these courses has indeed shown that addressing these important and relevant topics seems to ignite student enthusiasm for both learning and action. The passion, efforts, and outreach demonstrated by Bill (Law) and his classmates are testimony to the important contributions URI students make on a regular basis to improving society as well as to their own development. We are very proud of our students and the faculty who worked so hard to engage with them in these special courses.”

“We are looking at water-borne illnesses and wondering how we could help,” Law said. “Through our reusable water bottle drive, we are trying to show how much water we use and how our waste contributes to water depletion.”

Each bottle is blue and emblazoned with the Rhody Ram logo, and costs $10. They will be sold at the URI Holiday Mini Mall in the Memorial Union, 50 Lower College Road, Dec. 7 and 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Money raised will be donated to water.org, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries.