Photo courtesy of Katy Schemberger
The Center for Sustainability challenged students to participate in the Fill it Forward competition to reduce waste from single-use plastics and win $100,000 for sustainability initiatives on campus.
The competition, sponsored by Hyundai, is between three southern California schools: Pepperdine University, Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University. Each school distributed 1,000 reusable water bottles and stickers with barcodes on them, encouraging students to scan their code every time they refill their water bottle.
Center for Sustainability Director Camila Pupparo said it is important to bring this challenge on campus because single-use plastics are one of the biggest contributors to the world’s pollution problem.
“They are non-biodegradable,” Pupparo said. “Yes, they are recycled sometimes. But, as many people already know, China has stopped accepting our plastic since January of this year, and now it’s basically all ending up in landfills.”
Between Nov. 4 and Nov. 22, students can participate by picking up a water bottle or sticker from Center for Sustainability’s office, downloading the Cupanion app and registering with their Pepperdine email address.
Students can pick up a Hyundai branded bottle or place a sticker on their own reusable water bottle to participate in the challenge. Photo by Vernie Covarrubias.
“Once you’ve registered, there are prize pools every couple of days,” Pupparo said.
The app enters eligible participants into a random drawing for individual rewards including an eco-friendly surfboard, wetsuit, Outdoor Voices gift card and Patagonia gift card. Students can fill their water bottles a maximum of four times per day.
Tracking the Impact
The Cupanion app keeps track of the participant’s impact on plastic, waste, power and emission conservation based on the number of water bottle reuses the participant logs.
Furthermore, the competition is linked to the initiatives of a clean water nonprofit, WaterAid.
“Every time people scan their barcodes for this contest, it’s also giving funds towards a clean water project in a developing country,” Pupparo said. “So it has that charitable aspect to it as well.”
The Cupanion app tracks the individual impact of each participant. Photo by Vernie Covarrubias.
“I like how the app tells you how much all the schools have saved,” junior RJ Manke said. “It says how many pounds of waste or how much plastic you saved, so I definitely think it’s adding up.”
Manke, who has been using a Hydro Flask for the past three years, said he thinks the challenge will encourage others to do the same.
“I think it’s a great way to get people to stop using plastic bottles and think about the environment more,” Manke said.
Pupparo said she hopes to help students see the impact a single individual can have through their participation in this challenge.
“There is a significant amount of impact that one individual can have in this particular behavior shift,” Pupparo said. “So even though it may not seem like a lot, it is, because what you are doing ripples onto the people around you.”
Pupparo said the build-up of habits over time creates long-term impacts.
“In one day, one individual might drink four or five bottles of water,” Pupparo said. “Now over a period of a year, and over a period of a lifetime, that’s a whole lot of plastic that you are keeping out of landfills.”
The winning university will receive $100,000 for the school’s Sustainability department.
Pupparo said Pepperdine would use the funds to install more water bottle refill stations around campus.
“We have received really good feedback from students that they like the [refill stations] that are already in existence, but would like to see more in other places on campus,” Pupparo said.
Pupparo said the new stations would be added to residence dorms.
Throughout the three weeks the contest runs, Hyundai, Pepperdine Athletics and the Center for Sustainability are collaborating on a variety of events to promote the Fill it Forward challenge.
On Nov. 5, the Art for the Earth exhibit displayed students’ and a professional artist’s work made entirely from recycled materials. Students stopped by to view the art, enjoy a vegan ice cream and learn more about the challenge from Hyundai representatives.
The Athletics department is promoting Hyundai’s initiative through an event called Ride and Drive before the men’s basketball kickoff game.
“We will have Hyudai alt-fuel vehicles [at the Firestone Parking lot] for students to check out firsthand and to test drive or just ride in,” said Katy Schamberger, a Hyundai representative.
Atheltics Director of Marketing and Communications Sarah Otteman said this is the first time Athletics has partnered with the Center of Sustainability and Hyundai.
“[The partnership] brings to light the issue of sustainability on campus,” Otteman said. “It also brings to light the opportunities for students to do more. Every time you scan, you give a cup of water to someone in need. So it’s not just advocating for sustainability on campus, but also in our society and in the world.”
Students help fund a clean water project each time they scan their tag. Photo by Vernie Covarrubias.
Hyundai will be showing electric vehicles in the Firestone parking lot such as the Kona, the Ioniq and the Nexo, which is hydrogen powered and only emits water.
“We wanted to tie in a larger sustainability connection, because all three of the campuses that are participating already have tremendous efforts and initiatives going on,” Schamberger said.
Participating students said they have been motivated to scan their water bottles by the Fill it Forward challenge.
Freshman Kinsey Ehmann said she thinks the challenge pushing her to make a difference.
“Usually I drink Dasani plastic bottles,” Ehmann said. “So I am saving plastic waste by using [the Fill it Forward challenge water bottle] every day.”
However, Ehmann said she will most likely return to her old habit of using plastic water bottles after the challenge ends.
As of Nov. 13, Pepperdine is in last place with 8,170 refills.
Email Vernie Covarrubias: email@example.com