At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, a ban on selling bottled water in the Boxer Bistro went into effect. Three Pacific students, two of which have graduated, brought forth the prohibition of selling bottled water in the Bistro. It’s not just Pacific’s campus that has put a halt on the sales; other schools such as the University of Portland and Washington University in St. Louis have preceded us in this eco-friendly solution.
While I think banning water sold in plastic bottles at Pacific was brought forth with good intentions, there are still drinks being sold in plastic bottles in the Bistro. Other than the electrolyte-infused SmartWater, the bulk of the other beverages available for purchase in the Bistro are sodas and other sugar-infused soft drinks being sold in plastic bottles. By eliminating the option of buying bottled water, Pacific students are left to choose from sodas and other unhealthy and sugary drinks that are still sold in plastic bottles. Let’s face it—if a student is in a hurry to get to class and they’ve forgotten to bring a refillable water bottle, they will buy the sugary drinks conveniently located in the Bistro instead of going back to their room to get a water bottle. Not only will students continue to buy beverages sold in plastic bottles, but they will be buying less healthy alternatives to water.
I understand that the purpose of the ban was to reduce plastic bottle waste, but because the other drinks in the Bistro are also sold in plastic bottles, the only way for this plan to result in a huge decrease in plastic bottle waste would be to ban not just water, but all drinks sold in plastic bottles.
However, there is a supplement to the ban that I do feel has made quite a difference on campus. Facilities has installed multiple water refill stations around campus, which are easily accessible and can be found in the U.C., the library and in the underclassmen residence halls. All you have to do is hold a refillable water bottle up to the sensor and it will automatically turn on and fill your container. These are a great addition to campus because before this year, the only refill station was in the Bistro.
I’m not saying that banning bottled water was a bad thing, especially considering the ban was partly motivated by water privatization rights. I just think our efforts would be better focused and more effective if instead of banning a substance not only from Pacific students, but also to visitors on campus, we put more effort into a movement for recycling and reducing the amount of plastic bottles. I believe the refillable water stations on campus will greatly increase student usage of refillable water bottle and cut back on waste.
The campaign against bottled water has its pros and cons. Will the ban on bottled water decrease the amount of plastic waste? Maybe, but I doubt it will be to the extent that the original campaigners envisioned. Will the installation of water refill stations on campus lead to an increase in the use of refillable water bottles? I think so. The only thing I would change about the campaign against bottled water would be to take the time and energy devoted to remove the plastic bottled water from the Bistro and focus it on raising the funds to install water refill stations in every building on campus. This way, students and visitors to campus can choose to purchase water (healthier than any other drink in the Bistro), but have the option to re-use that plastic bottle by refilling it in any of the buildings on campus.
This campaign is a great start, but I think the goals of the movement need to be re-evaluated if we want to see real results.