College Campuses Ban Bottled Water

Water has been playing a role in some recent weather disasters like Hurricane Irene and tropical storms in the southern United States. It’s no wonder it’s on our minds a lot lately.

It’s time to pay attention to where you get your water. In emergencies, of course, a bottle of water can be a lifesaver. But on a daily basis, a bottle of water is an expensive, environmentally destructive and potentially dangerous object.

Here are a few reasons:

  • It takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. alone. That’s enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.
  • In 2007, Americans consumed over 50 billion single serve bottles of water; between 30 and 40 million single serve bottles went into landfills each year.
  • The United State FDA describes bottled water in this way: “Bottled water is water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients except that it may optionally contain safe and suitable antimicrobial agents. Fluoride may be optionally added within the limitations established.”


There are many sides of this issue – pro and con. Let’s focus on the sustainability issue presented by the bottles in the landfill and the oil used to make these bottles we’re throwing away. The simple fix is to stop using them. Who better than students to take the lead in finding ways to make this happen?

College students at two Minnesota schools have joined nine other colleges in the US in banning plastic water bottles on campus.  This fall, the College of St. Benedict recently became the first school in the state — and the ninth in the nation — to ban the sale and purchase of plain bottled water on campus. Macalester College adopted a similar policy.

Many cities, including San Francisco and New York, have banned purchases of bottles of water using city money. Others may ban it from being sold within city limits. Chicago has begun taxing bottled water sales.

Hundreds of websites, including the one listed above, will give you more background information on this growing problem in the US – including which brands of bottled water are from a municipal water supply and which are from an authentic mountain spring.

You might want to take a look at your own consumption of bottled water.

Share your thoughts.

Do you drink it?

What kind do you buy?

Do you think it should be banned everywhere?

Do you have ideas on how to solve the problem of waste and expense?

Please weigh in!

31 thoughts on “College Campuses Ban Bottled Water

    • Good point, Sandy. One of the issues we’re looking at in this piece is that of tap water being sold as “special” water, and the sustainability concerns caused by the plastic bottles.
      The health disadvantages of some other drinks that come in bottles is another topic worth examining!

      • Thanks, Camilla. There are so many angles to this story, and yours is one of them.
        We’re focusing on the sustainability matter, concerning the oil used to produce the plastic bottles.
        Your link is more food for thought. Thanks for weighing in!

  1. I think it’s fraudulent to bottle tap water and sell it, unless you are telling people that is what they are buying. I can only tolerate spring water, so yes, I buy my water — sorry it only comes in plastic bottles.

    Is this still a free country or not? People have a right to express their own opinions and live their own lives. Trying to ban this and ban that is nothing but more social engineering and I for one am sick and tired of it. I think people should learn to mind their own business or write about it on their blogs.

    • Yes, it’s a free country but that doesn’t mean everyone is free to do whatever suits them regardless of the consequences. And people do NOT have a right to live their own lives if doing so impacts negatively on whatever – their children, their neighbours, the planet…..

      No one is trying to socially engineer you into anything – people (me included) are merely trying to point out that their are alternatives to bottled water – buy a flask and fill it yourself from your tap before you go out. No one’s asking you to walk 10 miles over broken bottles. People had to be “socially engineered” into wearing seat belts; quitting smoking (or at least not smoking in restaurants, movie theatres, airplanes…); not sticking their mentally handicapped kids into hospitals to rot….

      • anything but spring water makes her sick as I read in the comment that she wrote …. you can recycle plastic bottles just remember to remove the cap :o) I also buy bottled water A LOT because we spend every weekend at the lake. I purchase the cheep store brand and I do not really care if it is tap water or not just that we have safe water available for all of the children and adults. The funny thing is it is not a very well thought out plan to ban water in a bottle. So when those young adults are walking across campus and they are thirsty their only choice will be juice in a bottle or soda in a bottle ha ha ha ha ha ha

  2. I buy bottles when I want spring water, but also have a portable glass bottle that I fill from the tap or at drinking fountains.

  3. I buy water in a bottle, but I reuse the bottle for as much as a week at a time — filling it with filtered water from my refrigerator when possible. Diabetics and people with acid reflux and who knows what else benefit greatly by having water handy. Drinking water at the start of an acid reflux attack can save many hours of pain later and shrink the severity of the attack to almost nill. I would be willing to switch to a glass bottle with a larger opening for cleaning if they were not so breakable!

  4. Public water supplies are regulated to protect us. Bottled water is virtually unregulated. I feel infinitely safer drinking tap water.

    Bottled water is nice for when you are camping or if you’re in an area where the water tastes bad (we’re all used to our own local waters). But why does it have to be plastic? And why does it have to be packaged as individual servings?

    I am heartened to read this article about schools banning the bottles. It’s a step in the right direction. Coupled with the mandatory deposit and money back when you return the container that some states have adopted, we could return to a cleaner age before we invented that toxic plastic bottle.

    The petroleum consumption numbers were enlightening. I knew we were hooked on the stuff but I thought it was about the single occupant motorized conveyances that we overuse.

  5. I don’t see them banning Coke & Pepsi & other soda plastic bottles around campus. Everyone’s health would be better served going after them.

  6. What is the current (vending machine) alternative in the colleges where the bottled water has been banned? Soda?

    I agree that our trash-laden “disposable” society has gone overboard with convenience features. But in this case are we trading health for a short-term ecological gain?

    I am a supporter of free-market principles and streamlined government. Why couldn’t states work with manufactures to establish incentives for a robust, reusable container infrastructure? From what I’ve heard, reprocessing cost seems to be the deterrent to using reusable containers. If bottlers were faces with increased taxes or regulatory fees as an alternative, they may be more eager to comply.

  7. Why doesn’t the American government just pipe Coke into every American home so they can refill their coke bottles?! This ban is a joke. Typical of North Americans (and I am one!) to miss the forest for the trees. Just because you can take water with you doesn’t mean you always will have it with you! Go into a convenience store and see how many healthy drink choices there are. Then take away the bottled water section and see how many are left. If I am in the middle of a long ride and want a drink, do I really want to reach for a concentrated, pasteurized, denatured distant cousin of fruit juice or so-called sports drinks with more sugar than water in them? No thanks! As long as these companies are not mislabeling or misrepresenting their water, why should they be punished? I’ll support any company that supplies people with water over Pepsi any day!! If you are going to ban one, you have to ban them all for sure. Then you have to ban any company that sells bread in a plastic bag – because you could make it yourself. Then ban milk cartons – because you could theoretically buy a cow and take it with you. Good grief! How about using common sense and filling a flask when you can – and buying bottled water when you can’t! Even better – when you fill your flask with water instead of buying bottled water, donate the money you saved to a charity that builds wells in places where people can’t even get the water to fill a flask – like Hope International, for example…then we would be getting somewhere!

  8. While I have long felt that the bottled water craze is an expensive way to obtain drinking water, there is one very positive aspect of the trend.

    Medical experts contend that the average American is badly dehydrated and can benefit from more water consumption ( both muscles and the brain function better when properly hydrated).
    An indication of proper hydration is clear, not yellow urine – a condition that few, besides athletes strive for
    If nothing else, the bottled water craze has probably increased the level of hydration among the population, and shifted many away from unhealthy carbonated beverages.

    • By the way, in the US alone, there are 1 BILLION aluminum beverage cans produced each year. Aluminum is an energy intensive metal to produce.

      A fair analysis should include an estimate of how many aluminum containers are displaced by water bottled in plastic, and what the shift in beverage choice might be if bottled water is banned.

      The net result just might be that bottled water results in an overall reduction in energy consumed for bottled drinks.

  9. College students are some of the most absent minded people around. I think that banning the sale of water just means that the kids will drink pop and the container won’t change. Heck you almost can’t get a glass of water anywhere.

    Who says that a plastic pop bottle is worse than a paper or styrophom cup, or the energy to heat the water to wash a glass and energy to dry it. How many times to you have to use a solid glass or plastic cup or water bottle to make it less pollution than a plastic bottle. Can you even get a restaurant to fill your own container. I would be that is illegal in some places because of sanitary concerns.

    I’d love to see a re-fill price bring your own bottle for ice tea. It isn’t that practical for most college age kids, I’d rather they remember their physics books.

  10. A really great post and I like that you focused on the environmental aspect of using plastic as packaging material and that tap water is sold for 3000 to 4000 times the price than what comes out of the tap. I recetly blogged about the health issue involved when drinking from plastic bottles. Check it out: . The probelm actually came to my attention when I saw the movie Tapped. Did you see it? It gives you a great overview on many issues that surround plastic bottled water. Definitely a must see when you are interested in this subject.

  11. I agree with Annie. Banning is not the way to go here, and we should by no means be looking only at bottled water. The discussion really has to spread across the entire beverage industry. How much oil do we use to make all the bottles for all the beverages we consume? We must change the hearts, minds and habits of the masses to drink less of these beverages and drink healthier, more natural and even seasonal options. Most of us are lucky enough to have clean, potable water running right into our house. Ask a Chinese person if they can drink their kitchen water – the answer is no (I live in China, trust me).

    Of course, reducing consumption of bottled beverages could have a profound impact on the overall economy, so this is a delicate issue, but one I believe we can change with less of an impact over time as beverage makers find alternative solutions to maintaining profitability. The answer is for us all to realize that we cannot have whatever we want, whenever we want it. I believe bottled beverages lies at the very heart of this mindset, and it will be tremendously difficult to change. However, if we can change this core way of thinking, than we will have turned a very sharp and narrow corner on our way to a more overall sustainable existence.

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