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Hanley Sustainability Institute

A letter to campus: Plastic free and Pepsi pouring rights

Dear Plastic-Free Supporters,

The Sustainability Club is a student organization focused on service and social action at the University of Dayton. Our mission is to foster sustainable activity through education, action and leadership. In Spring 2023, the club gathered 450-plus signatures from University of Dayton students, faculty and staff in support of our Plastic Free Petition. Please continue to share this petition with friends and colleagues.

The Sustainability Club executive board had the opportunity to convene with University representatives involved with revising the terms of the Pouring Rights contract with PepsiCo. The contract is an exclusive marketing agreement to make available, sell, dispense and serve PepsiCo beverages during university events. Attendees at this meeting were Sara Harrison (Executive Director of Procurement and Payable Services), Joan Bauman (Executive Director of Dining Services), Steven Kendig (Executive Director of Energy Utilization and Environmental Sustainability) and Lindsay Girardin (Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services and Campus Operations).

The University of Dayton has signed another 10-year contract with PepsiCo. The University of Dayton administration has communicated with the PepsiCo Sustainability Team about our interest in alternative materials for soda bottles. We are investigating aluminum soda bottles that are lightweight, durable and recyclable. The representatives of the contract committee generally agree with our sentiments to reduce the amount of plastic products sold on campus through our Pouring Rights contract. However, aluminum water cans are primarily only provided in the west coast market due to a lack of demand in our region. 

HSI blog, 10-26-23

In the Fall of 2023, students in Psychology of Climate Change worked with Dining Services to put a two-day ban on plastic bottles on campus. Student survey responses were fairly negative and expressed concerns against more expensive plastic-free alternative products. While some appreciated the University's commitment to sustainability, many students were upset with the lack of alternatives and choice. The University needs to offer affordable and accessible products for students. While PepsiCo is willing to work on bringing plastic-free products to our region sooner, getting campus-wide student support will be an ongoing challenge. Positive outcomes from the Pouring Rights contract include permitting Dining Services to sell 10 percent non-Pepsi drink products from local vendors from minority or women-owned businesses this semester. The University of Dayton will continue to make strides toward sustainability initiatives with PepsiCo.

Since 2017, several sustainability initiatives by the University’s Department of Energy and Sustainability have received financial aid through our PepsiCo contract. For example, the purchase of the University’s first composting system tools and supplies for the urban garden located on the grounds of Old River Park. At Daniel J. Curran Place, equipment was purchased for the solar prairie, including apiary supplies, rain barrels, seeds and vermiculture supplies. PepsiCo's Sustainability and Sales teams have expressed their willingness to engage in conversations with the University to broaden the impact of the sustainability support funds. Lastly, as part of recent contract discussions, PepsiCo has agreed to increase its annual contribution to the University’s sustainability initiatives.

The switch to aluminum soda bottles will be a laborious task for the bottle industry. Currently, bottling manufacturers are not equipped to provide aluminum soda bottles at the scale the University demands. The University needs to sell PepsiCo products over an agreed sales volume to receive a partial refund. While aluminum can sales are eligible for rebate funds, current sales volume and demand are low in this area. The representatives of the contract will continue discussions on how the rebates will be adjusted as the University demand shifts to aluminum cans and bottles.

We wrote this letter with the intent to provide you with transparency and proof that your voices are being heard. With your support, we can push the boundaries of sustainability on campus. The best way to show continued support is, as Joan Bauman said, “Vote with your dollars.” Other action items include buying soda from the fountain, buying glass or aluminum cans when available and refraining from buying plastic bottles. Inform your friends about this update, so we can redirect campus demands toward aluminum products. Stay updated with the Sustainability Club by joining our organization in 1850, the campus engagement platform.

We greatly appreciate the willingness that all of you have to make a change for the common good. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Sustainability Club.

— Your Sustainability Club Leadership

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