Students around campus are changing the way they think about hydration by choosing to fill up their reusable water bottles at refilling stations around campus. Little do they know, they have former sustainability intern Frannie Speer to thank for these.
When Frannie joined the Office of Sustainability in the 2010-2011 academic year as the Choose to Reuse intern, she saw a need for a change in the consumptive behavior of students. Frannie encouraged members of the Wake Forest community to trade disposable plastic bottles for reusable bottles to meet their hydration needs. Her hard work came to fruition the summer after she graduated when a grant for which she applied was awarded and the first hydration station was installed in Reynolda Hall.
Frannie’s entrepreneurial inspiration spurred her to develop the Choose to Reuse campaign at Wake Forest. While taking a class that encouraged students to look at consumption creatively, she and her classmates began a discussion about water usage. Frannie remembers noting, “People are making uniformed decisions without thinking twice about it. Looking back to our youth, during those soccer games, other sporting events or even at lunchtime, our parents filled our bags and lunch boxes with the small water bottles. We are conditioned to think that is the only way to drink water.”
With this in mind, Frannie became interested in the idea of bringing the hydration stations to campus. The stations are a convenient way for people to have access to chilled, filtered water for their refillable bottles. Although Frannie has no preference for how she likes her tap water, she learned through a poll that most students on campus prefer it chilled and filtered. Through an informative campaign, Frannie and the Office of Sustainability armed faculty, staff, and students with information about pricing, health, safety, and environmental impacts of bottled water. With this information, campus consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions.
Over the course of the campaign, Frannie also saw a change in her own behavior. She polled students and found that they reported drinking only two to four glasses of water a day; she found herself in that same group. With easier access to water, Frannie increased her consumption and now she cannot go a day without her essential eight glasses. Even today, her project continues to expand and to improve the wellness of the Wake Forest community.
Upon graduating from Wake Forest in 2011, Frannie joined Wells Fargo Securities as an investment banker in the Consumer & Retail group, where she focuses on companies within the beauty retail and luxury retail market. Although, she does not directly work on sustainability issues, she still influences the environmental conscience of her coworkers and firm. During an investment banking training last summer, she pitched the idea of handing out Wells Fargo-logoed reusable water bottles instead of the traditional disposable plastic bottles – an idea that was met with enthusiasm.
In the future, she hopes to continue to pursue more direct work on sustainability issues. For now, she remains passionate about supporting local food production and independent restaurateurs. Frannie believes that by supporting the local food trucks and restaurants that sell sustainably farmed foods, she can directly influence the local community, the local economy, and reduce the energy and environmental impacts of food production.
To current students, her advice is to find a sustainable cause that they care about. Keeping your eyes open to different issues and making a conscious effort to address them remains important because as Frannie says, “the little things make a big difference.”