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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

Rethink the Drink started in 2010 with a simple concept: provide schools with an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles and see if habit change followed. Four years later, we are proud to report that habit change is indeed possible. There are now 39 water refill stations in schools and community facilities across Santa Barbara County, and they have been used more than 870,000 times. Creating a single plastic water bottle emits 2.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, thus the amount of carbon dioxide emissions mitigated by our refill stations is more than 2 million pounds.

Rethink the Drink has been proud to partner with the Orfalea Foundation since the program began. Orfalea’s support has led to collaborations with other groups, including this year’s partnership with Vapur and 1% for the Planet . Together, these organizations provided 12 refill stations and 7,500 Vapur reusable bottles for Santa Barbara County schools. The UCSB Associated Students Coastal Fund, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and Citrix also provided support that allowed the program to add five additional stations to schools in Goleta and Santa Barbara.

There are now refill stations in nearly every public school in the Santa Barbara School District, and the Goleta Union School District will be fully equipped by the fall of 2014. The Lompoc School District has nine stations and Buellton, Solvang and Guadalupe each have two.

Sharon Baird, Food Services Director in Goleta, can already see the positive effects of Rethink the Drink. “Goleta Union School District students and teachers are drinking more water and participating in saving our environment by not buying plastic one-use water bottles. By drinking more water, they drink less soda and other high-sugar beverages, and they are establishing a positive habit that helps them stay healthy while contributing to the longevity of our planet. It’s truly a win, win, win!”

CEC’s Rethink the Drink program is part of our Ditch Plastic initiative. Single-use plastic products have become a global issue, as they are having serious, widespread environmental impacts. Lightweight by design, single-use plastic often ends up as unintentional litter that flows into our waterways and to the ocean. Once in the ocean, plastic breaks down into such small segments that pieces from a single one-liter plastic bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world. And the volume of this plastic litter is staggering. In Los Angeles alone, ten metric tons of plastic fragments are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Efforts are underway to understand the impacts of plastics in the ocean, but one thing is clear: until we stop the flow of plastic into our oceans, we will not be able to clean it all up. Since 80 percent of all marine plastic begins on land, changing consumer habits is the most effective solution. Bring your own reusable bags everywhere you shop. Bring your own insulated water bottle or cup to coffee shops. Or take a true coffee break by enjoying a beverage in a ‘for here’ mug. When grocery shopping, choose products with the least amount of packaging and buy 100% recycled paper goods. Pack waste-free lunches for school and the office. Only by reducing our dependence on single-use plastics can we begin to stem the tide of plastic polluting our waterways.

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