Imagine this: you’re a college student, and you’re breaking a sweat trekking across campus. You want to quench your thirst without sipping sugary sports drinks or sodas, so what do you do? Buy bottled water. It’s easy, convenient, and some may say that it even tastes better than tap water. These are some of the excuses students use at Franklin and Marshall College (where I go) when they use extra meal swipes to purchase large cases of bottled water. Although bottled water is the “healthiest” item to order from the college’s catering service, it still baffles me when I see hundreds of plastic water bottles around campus (often in trashcans!), when tap water reigns supreme on so many levels.
This is the thinking behind the movement to ban bottled water at colleges and universities nationwide. At the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum on Wednesday July 10th, a “Beyond Bottled Water” event explored the consequences of bottled water. One panelist, Becca Neubardt from Corporate Accountability, discussed how she helped oust bottled water from her college and how to do it elsewhere. Neubardt first uncovered why the bottled water industrys has been scheming to market bottled water as a clean and safe alternative to tap water.
Although bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water, bottled water is constantly marketed as clean and fresh. Here’s where it gets more ridiculous – forty-four percent of bottled water is just insanely marked-up versions of tap water. What’s worse is that in order to bottle a single liter of this glorified tap water, a quarter of a liter of oil and an additional three liters of water are needed. The petroleum needed for these water bottles is clearly a nonrenewable resource, which creates an environmental cost on top of their financial costs. Additionally, less than twenty percent of bottled water bottles are recycled. Where do these bottles end up? In a landfill, where they will take 450 years to decompose. This is why Neubardt, and so many other environmentalists are encouraging the switch to tap water.
Neubardt has focused her efforts on banning bottled water sales from colleges and national parks. College students are a target audience for bottled water companies, as they are trendsetters and will pass their habits on to their children. Neubardt has encourages petitions, school/local newspaper articles, bottled water sculptures, and blind taste tests to raise awareness of the many aspects that make tap water an all-around winner. She hopes these measures can add to the list of twenty colleges and universities that are already bottled water free.
I think that for those who insist that filtered bottled water is cleaner and/or better tasting than tap water, installing water filters across campus would help encourage students to use a reusable bottle. Catch more on others’ efforts to move away from bottled water with our next post.
What is your take on bottled water?
Photo source: Leonard John Matthews and ai pohaku via Flickr