With fall quickly approaching, students across the United States are preparing to head back to college for another year. For our Take Back the Tap student activists, this means ramping up their campaigns to ban the use of bottled water on their campuses.
Over the past few years, Food & Water Watch has seen impressive growth in its Take Back the Tap initiative. To date, 73 campuses nationwide have either banned all sales of bottled water, or have banned the sale of it in certain locations, or at certain events. Currently, 182 campuses are involved in campaigns to ban or raise awareness around bottled water—up from 176 schools just a few months ago.
Many campuses do not have abundant water stations to refill water bottles, forcing students to rely on pricey, environmentally damaging bottled water. Campus dining halls and vending machines across the country are stocked full of bottled water, charging budget-strapped students thousands of times more for water that is less strictly regulated than tap water.
Along with its cost, the bottled water industry uses a lot of energy in the production and distribution process, and contributes to a host of social, environmental and economic issues. Water is essential to human life, and corporations should not be allowed to commodify a public resource for private profit.
Food & Water Watch’s Take Back the Tap campus initiative has helped campuses across the country eliminate the use of plastic bottled water and fight against this senseless commodification of public water supplies.
Efforts to reclaim tap water on college campuses range from installing more water refilling stations, adding tap water education to student orientations and distributing reusable water bottles.
From my experience at Goucher College, this nationwide, student-led effort to reduce the use of bottled water comes as no surprise. My peers at Goucher College have made amazing headway in recent years promoting the use of tap water over bottled.
Through organizing and placing pressure on the administration, they were able to remove bottled water from campus. This student-led initiative removed the sale of bottled water from dining facilities — but unfortunately the sale of boxed water has taken its place, and bottled water is still sold in vending machines due to contracts.
While it’s a step in the right direction, boxed water still supports the corporate control of water. Luckily, the college’s sustainably minded staff, faculty and students are incredibly dedicated to improving water refill station infrastructure on campus.
I’m encouraged by the ingenuity and drive my fellow students are dedicating to making my generation more responsible and educated consumers, and hope to see more sustainable improvements on my own campus soon.
Maren Stunes is a Food & Water Watch summer water research and policy intern and is entering her senior year at Goucher College