January 30, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 29°F


Commentary: Selling bottled water on campus is not sustainable

As a nation, we pay corporations $16 billion a year to bottle water. Especially in eco-conscious places such as Ithaca, it does not make sense to buy bottled water. Tap water is less expensive, more closely regulated and better for our environment.

Bottled water costs more. At Ithaca College, a 20-fluid ounce bottle of Aquafina water costs $1.75, while 20 fluid ounces of water from the City of Ithaca Water System costs less than a thousandth of a cent. The manufacturers of Aquafina and Dasani, whose products are distributed on campus, both admit their bottled water is nothing more than treated tap water.

Bottled water is less regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Ithaca regularly test and monitor the quality and safety of drinking water. The City publishes an annual Drinking Water Quality Report, which discusses the water treatment process and water quality data. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, leaves corporations basically responsible for testing and monitoring their own water. While they are tested, bottled water plants are “low priority” for inspection.

Bottled water negatively affects our environment. Each year, the amount of oil used to manufacture all of the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. is enough to fuel a million cars. Another fossil fuel-intensive process is transporting those bottles to the point of sale. Moreover, 80 percent of plastic bottles are not recycled correctly, with bottles ending up in landfills or incinerators. Tap water is not transported by truck and does not produce plastic waste.

We need to take a stand against the bottled water companies. One solution is simple — fill a reusable water bottle with tap water. As a college, we should join the growing number of institutions that pass policies preventing on-campus groups from using school funds to buy single-serving bottles of water.

Last year, the college installed water bottle filling stations in the Roy H. Park School of Communications and Egbert Hall. These highly successful and popular stations have made it easier for people to refill their reusable water bottles. As a community, we have saved more than 20,000 plastic bottles with these stations. Therefore, as a sustainable measure, all future college construction plans should include plans to install water filling stations.

The college would not be alone in its attempts at sustainability. Earlier this month, Rochester Institute of Technology implemented a similar bottled-water policy as part of its sustainability initiative. According to a press release, RIT president Bill Destler said “In a time when we are increasingly mindful of the rising cost of education and are working hard to enhance campus sustainability efforts, this move just makes sense. It is difficult to justify spending university funds on bottled water when the quality of our tap water is so high, and it is free.”

In January, the University of Vermont announced its plan to end sales of bottled water by the end of 2015 and plans to install 75 reusable water bottle filling stations by the end of this year. If the University of Vermont, whose dining program is also administered by Sodexo, can eliminate bottled water, so can we.

A bottled water policy at the college would save the institution money and encourage students, staff and faculty to adopt an even more sustainable lifestyle. We have a choice: to continue contributing to monetary and plastic waste or to demand more cost effective and sustainable policies for a better world.

Take Back the Tap will meet at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Six Mile Creek Room. Email tbtt@ithaca.edu for more information.

Leonard Slutsky  is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major and the vice president and co-founder of Ithaca College Take Back the Tap. Email him at lslutsk1@ithaca.edu.