Should Boston University Ban Bottled Water?

by Kelvin Naito on March 25, 2014


       From Seattle to Cambridge, universities across the country are banning the sale and use of plastic water bottles on campus. More than 90 schools including University of Portland, Seattle University, University of Vermont, Harvard University, and Washington University in St. Louis, have banned bottled water on their respective university campuses.  These universities placed an all-out ban on bottled water, which means that they stopped the sale and use in all restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines, and dining halls on campus. The use of bottled water within universities has been a hotly debated question for the past several years.  Boston University has not banned bottled water, but has tried to campaign for a more sustainable community.

BU has installed “hydration stations” across campus to provide students with filtered water, allow students to refill their reusable water bottle, and eliminate the use of bottled water. These stations also tell students how many plastic disposable bottles have been saved due to the usage of the hydration station. BU’s installation of these stations is considered an “alternative supply” rather than an all-out ban because the university still sales bottled water across campus.   Some argue that this “alternative supply” rather than an all-out ban is a better solution. There are many pros and cons for this argument. I will explore some of the reasons for and against banning water at Boston University.


Reasons to Not to Ban Bottled Waters at BU:

1)   Students will turn to less healthy alternatives: With a ban on bottled water, people will turn to less healthy drinks such as soft drinks. For example at City Co., with no bottled water in stock, students will choose more sugary drinks such as sodas or energy drinks. Ironically, these drinks are also in plastic bottles, so why not ban them as well? If we ban bottled water, shouldn’t we ban bottled drinks as a whole? Also, people may not trust unfiltered tap water from pipes because of the risk of hazardous chemicals and particles such as lead and other heavy metals. Bottled water is purified and filtered through distillation and ozonation for a better drinking quality.

2)   Bottled Water is very convenient: This may be the biggest reason why students would not want the ban on bottled water. Bottles are very versatile and easy to carry around. Bottles can be conveniently stored in bags and backpacks, rather than having to make multiple trips to a water fountain. Personally, I carry a disposable plastic bottled water with me in my bag and reuse and refill it at a hydration station.

3)   Practical Emergency Water Source: Another benefit of bottled water is as storage for future use.  If we were to experience an emergency event, bottled water would be beneficial if the tap water became inaccessible or may be contaminated. I remember when the hurricane hit BU last year. I immediately bought a pack of water bottles just in case the tap water was not working. If the university were to ban bottled water, many students would not have access to an emergency supply of water.


Reasons to Ban Bottled Water at BU:

1)   Environmentally Friendly: This is probably the main reason why universities across the country are banning bottled waters. By banning plastic bottles, it takes a big step forward to becoming a sustainable university. Here are some facts: bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. Plastic takes up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. 80% of plastic bottles are just thrown away, not recycled.  And it is reported that it takes up to 1,000 years for plastic to biodegrade. Since plastic takes a long time to biodegrade, it affects human and marine life. It poses a particularly great risk for these creatures by killing birds and fish for mistaking the plastic for food.

2)   Bottled Water is expensive for a student’s budget: Bottled water costs more per ounce than gasoline and thousands of times more than regular tap water. In most convenience stores, bottled water is the same price as soft drinks, even though, most tap water costs about 1 cent per gallon.  As students, we pay a ton of money for tuition. So why spend unnecessary money on water that we can get for free at hydration stations? Bottled water companies pay billions of dollars advertising that their brand is from natural sources and healthier than tap water. The reality is that bottled water is no better than tap water. It is no surprise that the bottled water brand, Evian, spelt backwards is naïve.

3)   Bolsters BU’s Image: Boston University would join a small but dedicated group of universities who are determined to end the sales and use of bottled water. Our image would be praised throughout the country because of our increasing efforts to “go green”.  The university could potentially receive donation money to continue this green initiative and become a more sustainable community, which may save us some money. As a university, banning bottled water will gain us publicity, as we want to lesson the environmental impact one step at a time.












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