Facebook App Aims to Wash Away Usage of Disposable Water Bottles
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Category: News > University > Student Life
A new Facebook application encourages UC Berkeley students to realize the power of collective action while competing amongst each other.
Refill Revolution allows its approximately 400 users to keep track of how many times they refill their water bottles, ranking them in comparison with friends. Founders Aaron Schwartz and Nicole Ballin-both graduate students at the Haas School of Business-said time spent observing the lack of access to clean drinking water in developing countries inspired them to create the application.
"Not only does competition breed habit, but it also encourages a widespread participation," said senior Rakesh Chanana. "Competition is very contagious."
Two campus fraternity chapters were the first organizations to compete using the application. First prize was a donation to Blue Planet Run, a foundation dedicated to providing safe drinking water to 200 million people by 2027, according to the foundation's Web site.
For freshman Sara Winsemius, an environmental science major, the friendly rivalry is secondary to the collective ecological impact.
"(Refill Revolution) is a really great visual way to show how people can make a difference-their efforts really do add up," she said.
Saving a 20-ounce plastic water bottle from a landfill conserves 5 ounces of oil used to manufacture, transport and cool a new bottle, Schwartz said. Reusing a bottle also precludes it from sitting in a landfill for 1,000 years, he added.
Refill Revolution discourages users from buying new water bottles which require 60 ounces of water to manufacture, Ballin said.
"It's an easy way for people to start doing some good-good for you and your body, using less plastic, which is good for the environment, and we donate a cent for every bottle people keep from the landfill," Ballin said.
UC Berkeley media studies professor Marina Levina said social media can mobilize large numbers of people, but users must take action outside cyberspace.
"Just because you are a fan on Facebook doesn't excuse you from going out and calling your congresswoman," she said.
Though Refill Revolution is only available to the Berkeley campus, Schwartz said he and Ballin plan on expanding the project to include UCLA or Stanford University, fostering a competition between universities.
"We really believe that competition is the way to drive adoption and make people take sustainable action," Schwartz said. "Getting the competitive juices flowing will be an opportunity for Cal to show how green it is and help engage a much larger audience to take action."
Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato covers the environment. Contact her at [email protected]
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