The Water Bottle Free initiative, a movement to lower the amount of plastic water bottles on campus and encourage the use of reusable ones, has been an ongoing pursuit among students and faculty leaders for many months. In fact, SCU has made a pledge to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles by 50% of their 2009 levels by 2012. In order to reach this goal, Associated Student Government (ASG) distributed Mission Sustainable reusable water bottles to all incoming freshman on campus last month. However, the success of this program could not have been achieved without the help of senior Conner Mulrooney who worked on installing over 30 goose-neck water filling stations around campus this summer.
Conner first became interested in sustainability when he traveled to Nueva Suyapa, Honduras where he witnessed people living among their trash and was inspired to help combat the amount of environmental degradation around the world. Since then he has been a proactive member of the Santa Clara University community by declaring economics and an environmental studies companion major and by reaching out to faculty and staff about affecting change on campus, which is subsequently how he received his job this summer working on the water filling stations.
Last spring while working at the Forge garden, Conner had the opportunity to meet Joe Sugg, the Assistant Vice President of University Operations and the man in charge of running many sustainable projects on campus such as installing solar panels and solar water heaters. After doing some research on Sugg’s contributions to building a more sustainable campus, Conner asked to have an informational interview with him where he asked Sugg if it was possible to intern with him over the summer. Surprised, Conner notes, “he told me that no one has ever asked him that question before and that he had never thought about having an intern either.” A few weeks later, Sugg called Conner back in for a formal interview, and he was offered an internship with Facilities helping to install the filling stations.
Conner's summer internship involved coordinating the installation of goose-neck water spigots. He met with contractors and plumbers about the water filter stations, surveyed predetermined sites to make sure that they were appropriate for goose-neck spigots, updated his supervisor on project completion status, and managed the cost spreadsheet to make sure that the stations did not go over budget.
"I was really excited to be in charge of leading such a wonderful project to [help] reduce plastic water bottles around campus," said Conner of his summer work. He found most interesting the reception his project received from faculty and staff on campus. "I had to speak with the building managers for every building that the stations were going to be installed in," he explained. "I think [they] were more excited about the new filling stations than the students."
Conner’s work has impacted the Santa Clara community by placing convenient and accessible water filter stations in heavily trafficked areas of campus such as in Benson, Malley Fitness Center, and all residence halls. Conner’s work is receiving strong recognition from the community and he is proud that the new goose-neck spigots are so popular. He hopes they contribute to a reduction in plastic water bottle use on campus.
Conner’s advice to all who want to affect change on campus: “Pursue anything that interests you... each person has the power to make something out of every opportunity that one has, but people have to act on these opportunities to truly excel in life.”
By Christiane Sanicola, '13, Sustainability Intern for Waste Diversion