Bottled Water Reduction
Actions at Brandeis
Brandeis is taking actions to reduce bottled water use. In the Fall of 2008 water fountains were upgraded with "water filler" attachments and new sinks were added in Usdan. All undergraduate students received a reusable water bottle in 2008- and incoming students will get a new one. Dining Services now offers water urns and containers for events. Students were encouraged to "Drink Responsibly" during a year long educational campaign- including tap water taste tests, contests, and movie showings.
A committee of students, faculty, and staff reviewed the issues involved in the use of bottled water on campus and submitted a report to the President in October 2008. The consensus of the committee was to restrict bottled water use where tap water was easily accessible, but to remain selling bottled water in the "convenience store" locations on campus with room to open discussion for further reductions at a later time. As of Fall 2009, bottled water is not sold in Usdan or Boulevard Cafe, locations where tap water is easily accessible and there had been a high volume of bottled water sales. The actions taken in 2008-2009 school year (water fillers, free containers, and educational activities) were crucial to implement before restricting sales- and have made this change easy for the community to adapt to.
The Brandeis community is encouraged to avoid purchasing bottled water for events and daily use. If you need any help planning an event or have questions about reducing your bottled water consumption please contact Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, Campus Sustainability Coordinator.
Environment and Energy
Bottled water use has implications for global warming pollution as well as additional environmental and social impacts. There is a great amount of energy wasted and there is uncertainty over the long-term health effects created by plastic containers made of petroleum products. While bottles can be recycled the process is still very energy intensive. Brandeis must also pay to dispose of waste- often individual bottles are put in the trash. While the rate of recycling at Brandeis maybe better, nationally 86 percent of water bottles in the United States are sent to landfills .At large events empty bottles can create unsightly litter. Additionally, bottled water must be trucked to campus using fuel and adding to traffic congestion. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.
Bottled water can provide a convenient source of sanitary hydration, helping avoid medical issues in hot weather. However widespread use can be cited for negative health implications. Bottled water companies have long been charged with deceptive marketing practices that reduce confidence in local water supply. Brandeis is served by the City of Waltham’s water supply, comes from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority ( MWRA) which is known to provide healthy and safe drinking water. Often bottled water is found to be less healthy or contain fewer minerals than typical tap water because of lower standards of regulation. Dasani, the brand purchased through Aramark is just processed tap water. Poland Spring, which maintains many of the office coolers on campus, does comes from a spring source that has additional minerals. However, many health advocates believe tap water is a better choice than office coolers as the stations are not frequently cleaned- leading to spread of disease.
Social Justice and Financial
Bottled water presents social justice implications; it can deplete areas of their water supply through privatization. Using bottled water could even reduce funding for tap water protection leading to equity issues for low income people. Bottled water can cost 1,000 times more than tap water, a cost much of the world will not be able to afford. While there may be additional labor costs to provide tap or filtered water at large events and in dining locations, the cost expenditure of single serve bottled water will continue to rise. Investing in alternative methods of providing drinking water is a hedge against these costs. Brandeis is already paying a “fuel surcharge” on office water coolers and this charge could rise.
Action on the Issue
Cities and institutions across the country are focusing on the economic implications of bottled water use - frequently disallowing the purchase of bottled water for official purposes, and reducing access in dining facilities. The President’s Office at Johns Hopkins University is discontinuing bottled water in their operations. Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and New York have restricted the municipal purchase of bottled water. Mayor R. Anderson of Salt Lake City described the “total absurdity and irresponsibility, both economic and environmental, of purchasing and using bottled water when we have perfectly good and safe municipal sources off tap water.
 Natural Resources Defense Council. Bottled Water: Pure Drink Or Pure Hype?. March 1999