Reusable water bottles promoted at universities
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
As university administrators around the country take steps in reducing their schools’ carbon footprints, many are choosing to remove what is a convenient necessity for some students on campus—plastic water bottles.
Most recently, the University of Vermont began to phase in a ban that would stop the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. By doing so, the university will become one of the first colleges to be free of plastic water bottles in dining halls, residence halls and on-campus convenience stores.
Professor Richard Chapas, leader of the Sustainability Task Force, in charge of making campus more environmentally-friendly, said a similar ban throughout campus in student centers like Trabant University Center would be efficient in removing waste and providing the university with a visual demonstration of its commitment to sustainability.
“From an environmental perspective, there will be less waste and disposable costs,” Chapas said. “From a social perspective, there will be more consciousness of the environmental impact of the products.”
While the ban would be more environmentally sustainable, Chapas said it would have adverse effects on businesses and student drinking habits.
In 2011, the total volume of bottled water consumption in the United States was 9.1 billion gallons, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. The study also found 90 universities are in the process of banning plastic bottled water.
PepsiCo and the university maintain a strong partnership, Margot Carroll, director of Hospitality Services, stated in an email message. The company, she said, has several “green initiatives,” and workers are researching new projects in recycling innovation.
Both the university and PepsiCo include sustainability initiatives on their agendas, but Carroll said the administration will continue to offer plastic water bottles.
“Our goal is to offer the university community choices with water stations, bottled water for sale and promoting sustainable practices by handing out refillable water bottles to every entering freshman class,” Carroll said.
Junior Samantha Burns uses both reusable and plastic water bottles, she said. Though she would support the program if it was implemented correctly, she said it might not be ideal for some students.
It is important this change be tested first by gradually lowering the supply of plastic water bottles on campus in different locations before removing them all completely, Burns said.
“College students aren’t always planning ahead,” she said. “Not selling plastic water bottles would be really inconvenient for people our age.”
For a similar ban to be implemented there would need to be substantial support from students, the Sustainability Task Force and the city, Chapas said.
The ban not only reduces plastic consumption and fossil fuels, but it also opens discussion on the differences between tap water and bottled water, junior Kathleen Grimes, president of Students for the Environment, said.
“Students can realize that they don’t need to get water strictly from plastic bottles,” Grimes said. “Marketing campaigns make you believe it’s more purified than tap water but there are actually higher regulations on tap water.”
Because plastic bottles can leak chemicals into the water, Grimes said reusable water bottles that are free of a carcinogenic chemical compound that breaks down easily, Bisphenol A, are the best alternative.
Grimes said environmentally-minded students would support a change in plastic water bottle policy and those students could encourage others to see advantages.
The university currently has one water bottle refill station that digitally monitors how much waste has been has been eliminated with each fill. The station, located in the Perkins Student Center, is similar to water stations replacing plastic water bottles in universities such as Emerson College and Vermont.
Senior Shawn Varughese said he thinks changing the university policy on plastic water bottles would be a beneficial adjustment for students to consider.
“It’s not something that your average student thinks about because we’re not really educated enough about the benefits of using less plastic and recycling more often,” Varughese said.