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College-Bound Student Rejects Scholarship From Nestlé's Bottled Water Company

Major kudos to Hannah Rousey. The college-bound student from Lovell, Maine has turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring‬ due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.

Hannah Rousey has turned down a $1,000 scholarship from water bottle company Poland Spring‬. Photo credit: GoFundMe

"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," she wrote a letter to the bottling company on June 2, according to the Conway Daily Sun.

The 17 year old has been accepted to Sterling College in Vermont where she will pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection law and policy. She was one of five students who received a $1,000 Poland Spring Good Science scholarship at her high school graduation ceremony from Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, the Bridgton News reported.

Although tuition at the four-year private college will set her back $46,152 for the 2016-17 academic year, Rousey explained in her letter that it would be "hypocritical" of her to accept Poland Spring's money:

For me to accept your scholarship would be hypocritical. I am in hopes that more people of my generation will become aware of the dire need to protect our water and the earth’s other precious resources.

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.

Treehugger pointed out that this is blatant "bluewashing," which is a term for when companies or organizations falsely boost their green credentials to make good PR.

Poland Spring natural resource manager Mark Dubois provided a response to Rousey's letter. According to the Conway Daily Sun, he acknowledged that while Rousey's numbers are accurate, he countered that Poland Spring could safely take 800,000 gallons of water a day from Fryeburg's aquifer.

"If it were not sustainable, we would not be here," Dubois said. "We are operating well under sustainable limits."

But Rousey isn't just mad about Poland Springs siphoning massive quantities of water. She also highlighted the enormous environmental footprint of water bottle production as well as its resulting plastic waste, as she told the Conway Daily Sun:

The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1,000 years to biodegrade. Along with the potential to drain the surrounding aquifers, shipping out 135 million cases of plastic bottles annually, think about all the air pollution from the trucks that travel around the state of Maine. How does this fall in line with sustainable and ethical practices?

The new high school grad told Bridgton News that she was taught at a young age to carry a reusable water bottle with her so she would not have to buy bottles from a store. As she got older, she learned more about Fryeburg's water issues and was even invited to speak at her local library about the documentary Bottled Life, which explores the environmentally exploitative practices of the bottled water industry.

“I’ve grown up in a family where environmental stewardship is ingrained in our everyday life, to respect the planet and the rights of every living thing on it,” Rousey said. Photo credit: GoFundMe

“Being an educated and aware consumer is key to being able to enact change," Rousey said. "The almighty dollar speaks volumes. It is paramount that we support the people and companies that are operating using sustainable practices.”

While she admits she's appreciative of the scholarship money and could use the financial support to attend college in the fall, she said, "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.”

Since word got out of the principled teen, Fryeburg Water Trustee Nickie Sekera has set up a GoFundMe scholarship fund to help raise $10,000 that will go toward's Rousey college tuition. More than $2,000 has already been raised since the crowdfunding campaign launched two days ago.

Joshua Turcotte, who contributed $200, wrote on the campaign page, "Really happy you took the stance that you did; I'm from the areas affected by their water exploitations, and have been fuming about it ... so this is a great change of pace. Focus hard on your studies and beyond."

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