Maine student rejects scholarship from bottled water company

Despite needing to pay a hefty tuition bill this fall, Hannah Rousey refused to take money from Poland Spring Bottling Co., a subsidiary of Nestlé.

Last month, 17-year-old Hannah Rousey graduated from high school. She was awarded a $1,000 ‘Good Science’ college scholarship, one of three recipients nominated by teachers at the Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine. Rousey, however, is making headlines for her refusal to accept. The money comes from the Poland Spring Bottling Company, a subsidiary of Nestlé, that bottles spring water in Maine and sells it across the northeastern United States.

Rousey is strongly opposed to bottled water. She is also planning to study sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy at Sterling College in Vermont, starting this fall. The source of the scholarship, therefore, did not fit with her personal convictions, and so she wrote a letter to the Poland Springs Bottling Company on June 2, part of which was published in the Conway Daily Sun:

“I am grateful for the scholarship I have been awarded, but I cannot in good faith accept money from a company that does not exhibit sustainable and ethical practices… For me to accept your scholarship would be hypocritical.

“On average, Poland Spring is now allowed to take up to 603,000 gallons of water per day from Fryeburg's aquifer. Poland Spring also taps water sources in Poland, Hollis, Pierce Pond Township, Dallas Plantation, Kingfield and Denmark. This water is then trucked to the largest bottling facility in the world, located in Hollis, Maine. They offer monies to our towns, schools and organizations to distract us from the fact that they robbing us of our water.”

The term for this is ‘bluewashing’, when a business, organization, or corporation touts its commitment to social responsibility and humanitarian efforts, and then uses this perception to improve public relations and make economic gains.

Rousey refuses to be bought out. She told the Bridgton News that she was taught to carry a reusable water bottle as a child, not to buy it at a store. She was always made aware of the fight for water rights in her home region and of the terrible environmental impact of single-use plastic bottles. Recently she was involved in the screening of a documentary called Bottled Life at a local library. She told the newspaper:

“Standing up for one’s beliefs and convictions isn’t something that is done only when convenient. It’s important to lead by action, when push comes to shove doing what is right isn’t always what is easy. Accepting money from Poland Springs would go against everything I am going to school for, therefore, I politely declined their offer.”

The other scholarship recipients clearly did not share Rousey’s feelings. The Conway Daily Sun quotes one student as saying “he doesn't have a strong enough negative opinion against Nestle to turn down the scholarship” and that it’s very helpful for upcoming school costs.

A GoFundMe page was created on Monday on Rousey’s behalf and so far has raised $1,210, which means this determined young activist has already made a profit while standing up for her beliefs. Way to go, Hannah!

Tags: Bottled Water | Education | Maine | Water Crisis


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