By Andrew Theen – Mar 7, 2012 12:01 AM ET
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-07/ivy-colleges-shunning-bottled-water-jab-at-22-billion-industry.htmlBottled water is coming under attack on college campuses.More than 90 schools, among them Brown University and Harvard University are banning the sale or restricting the use of plastic water bottles, unnerving the $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in the U.S. The University of Vermont is the latest to join the movement, announcing in January it would stop sales early next year.A forklift moves bails of plastic bottles at the San Francisco Recycling Center. More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. last year. The industry is growing 5.4 percent annually. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesDiscarded water bottles lay in a trash can in Washington, D.C. Students at Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island, started a campaign to reduce bottled water consumption in 2010 and more than a dozen U.S. schools have campus-wide bans on the sale of plastic water bottles. Photographer: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty ImagesFreshmen at colleges across the country are being greeted with stainless-steel bottles in their welcome packs and encouraged to use hydration stations where free, filtered water is available. Brown, which used to sell about 320,000 bottles of water a year in vending machines and campus stores, ended sales in dining halls in 2010. Harvard and Dartmouth Collegeare installing hydration stations in new buildings to reduce trash.The product just doesnt make common sense, Sarah Alexander, 20, an environmental-studies major at Hanover, New Hampshire-based Dartmouth, said by e-mail. Companies are taking something that is freely accessible to everyone on the Dartmouth campus, packaging it in a non-reusable container and then selling it under the pretense that it is somehow better than tap water.In response to the growing movement, the water industry released a video on YouTube last month poking fun at Ban the Bottle, an organization that advocates banning one-time-use plastic water bottles. The spot, which features Star Wars- like music and flashbacks of antiwar demonstrations, says bottled water is a safe, convenient product that is one of the healthiest drinks on the shelf and that its packaging is recyclable.
Serious IssuesThere are really serious issues over here, and now youre dealing with bottled water? Joe Doss, president of theInternational Bottled Water Association, based in Alexandria,Virginia, said in a phone interview. While there are anti- bottled-water groups going from campus to campus, Doss said he doesnt consider it a big threat at this point.More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. last year, and the industry is growing 5.4 percent a year, according to Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of the Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York consulting firm. Sales to colleges and universities arent tracked separately.The bottling industry may be worried about losing brand loyalty from college kids, said Eric Meliton, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan.If they lose that access, yeah, you would see a big dropoff on that demographic, Meliton said in a phone interview. College students are on the go, theyve got backpacks and they may not choose to use bottled water.
Saving MoneyReducing or eliminating plastic bottled water saves students money and has the environmental benefit of reducing the need to truck bottles across the country, Niles Barnes, project coordinator with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, said in a phone interview.Its a really tangible, sustainable activity that students can get behind, Barnes said.Students at Brown, in Providence, Rhode Island, started a campaign in 2010 to reduce bottled water consumption and the school stopped selling it in dining halls that September. Brown holds about 50,000 bottles in reserve in case of a natural disaster or to distribute at graduation or other events, Chris Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives, said in an interview.Theres an environmental impact to the waste of disposable water bottles, Powell said. We realized there were alternatives that we could put in place that everybody was agreeable to.
Culture ShiftDartmouth is trying to shift the student culture about purchasing bottled water, said Rosi Kerr, the schools director of sustainability. Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey, promotes a Drink Local initiative to reduce plastic- bottle waste.Some departments at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard have banned the purchase of bottled water for meetings. Cornell University has a reduction campaign, as does Yale University. The University of Pennsylvania encourages administrative offices to use hydration stations rather than bottled water.Sitting back and doing nothing as environmental groups campaigned to ban bottled water wasnt an option for the water industry, the water associations Doss said. His niece, a student at The College of Charleston, alerted him to an effort on her campus, and he said there is an active movement across the nation.More than a dozen U.S. schools have campuswide bans on the sale of plastic water bottles, according to Barnes.
Sweetened BeveragesSome colleges with a history of activism have rejected bans on packaged water. The University of California, Berkeley opted against the idea on concern it would drive students toward sweetened beverages, said Trish Ratto, a university health services official. So did Columbia University, after students said theyd buy it elsewhere, according to Nilda Mesa, assistant vice president of environmental stewardship at the New York- based college.Brown philosophy major Terrence George, 21, calls the universitys policy an unwarranted assault on bottled water.
To follow college campaigns against bottled water, visit: http://www.banthebottle.net/map-of-campaigns/