DU takes back the tap

Anna Walsh

Savannah Christie


Take Back the Tap is a student run organization at the University of Denver that has been trying to make a name for itself since 2011. The organization is part of a national initiative to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on college campuses. Take Back the Tap is helping DU reduce their carbon foot print as well as become more environmentally conscientious. If DU bans the sale of plastic water bottles, it will show the public that DU is a pioneer of environmentally friendly college campuses, and how campaigns can be successfully established at other schools.


“Food & Water Watch is a non-profit which raises awareness about the issues that come along with bottled water on college campuses and in general and to promote clean, safe tap water,” says Erin Smith, campaign coordinator and DU senior.

Erin Smith has been passionate about Take Back the Tap since she was a freshman and was hired as the coordinator in June 2015 and entered the position the following fall.

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As a campaign coordinator, Smith has a lot of flexibility. “You can make it what you want it to be; in the fall I tried to gain awareness and this quarter I’ve been trying to develop a core team,” says Smith.


Currently Smith and the rest of the Tap team are trying to bring awareness to a nationwide competition, Tap-a-palooza that DU is participating in. Tap-a-palooza is a competition among higher education institutions to see which school can gain the most amount of signatures on a petition to reduce the sale of plastic water bottles. The school with the most amount of signatures will be granted $1,500 to put towards water infrastructure.


“We have a form that we’re going to be blasting out during spring break for students to sign,” Smith says about the competition.


The Tap-a-palooza competition follows a successful fall quarter of awareness events. In October, Take Back the Tap participated in DU’s Food Week where they encouraged DU students and community members to state why they support the ban on the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. People had the opportunity to take part in a photo petition and get free stickers for doing so. On November 3rd, Smith organized a screening of the documentary, Flow where students could learn about increasing crisis regarding privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply and eat free pizza. Take Back the Tap teamed up with DU Solar and Divest DU in November to bring awareness to corporate influence on college campuses which they did so by educating people on Driscoll Bridge.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 7.31.21 PMTake Back the Tap outreach coordinator, Maddy Gawler, believes that implementing this ban at DU is plausible because, “faculty already carry their own mugs and plastic containers with them…for students the ones that carry their water bottles around, live off of them.”


Take Back the Tap is part of a national initiative run by environmental watchdog, Food & Water Watch whose mission is to ensure wholesome food, clean water and sustainable energy for future generations. Food & Water Watch believes it is the responsibility of the public, in particular college students, to organize and lobby for a democracy that is dedicated to improving lives and and protecting the environment.


A study by the Pacific Institute found that about “…77 percent of all plastic water bottles end up in landfills” (Food & Water Watch).


Smith and Gawler hope to follow in the footsteps of CU Boulder and the University of Portland where students have successfully implemented a ban on the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. In particular, students at the University of Oregon were able to prohibit bottled water being distributed at events that require catering services (Food & Water Watch).


“We can definitely eliminate all plastic on the DU campus, I know CU Boulder just started to make some good progress…If they can do it, we can easily do it as a smaller school,” says Gawler.


Smith is hopeful that she can find a student as passionate and willing to fulfill her coordinator role when she graduates in June. For the duration of her position, Smith would like to focus on having DU students recognize Take Back the Tap as a prominent DU student organization and for sustainability to become a topic of conversation among students.

One Response to DU takes back the tap

  • Jillian Queri
    Jillian Queri says:

    Really nice job, you two! I loved how you approached a different topic, something that is important, but not a lot of people know about. I liked your shots of people filling up their water bottles, super creative and fitting! Well done. 🙂

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