Water Week’s message must run deeper: ban the bottles

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By Erin Delman

Union celebrated its first annual Water Week last Monday through Friday. Organized by Professor Jeffrey Corbin, one of two faculty chairs of U-Sustain, the week was meant to spread awareness about local and global water-related issues. Events included a screening of the Story of Bottled Water, a water-themed Tuesday Common Lunch Hour, and a Pizza and Politics discussion about hydraulic fracturing.

Over 30 professors addressed water in their classes during the week. Environmental Club members Kaitlyn Suarez ‘15 and Jennifer Sexton ‘15 conducted a taste test in Reamer, in which an equal number of students preferred the taste of tap to bottled. In addition, the bookstore did not sell bottles of water on Friday.

Last week, Corbin wrote an editorial addressing the ecological hazards of bottled water. We have new, filtered water filling stations in the library, Reamer, Alumni Gym and College Park; thus, we have ensured that every student has access to clean, filtered tap water (although I would like to reassert that Schenectady has one of the cleanest water supplies in the country).

Couple that with the awareness initiatives of this week and years past—unknown to many Union students, Environmental Club has attacked water bottle use on campus every year since I matriculated—one would assume that water bottle consumption will decrease. Heck, we might as well ban water bottles all together.

I can already hear the objections: “I need my water bottle! It’s convenient, I like the feel of non-biodegradable, disposable plastic in my hand! I only trust water extracted from the illustrious rainforests of Fiji. Besides, Nalgenes don’t fit into cup holders in the elliptical machines!”

I think that every bottled-water-user can intuitively recognize that their habit is disadvantageous. No one purchases Dasani to benefit the planet; people purchase these commodities for convenience. Undoubtedly, Water Week dissuaded some purchases, but ecologic and economic arguments don’t mandate complete abandonment of the status quo.

Water bottles are not like other ecological quagmires. Electricity reduction is a valiant environmental goal, but complete termination of its use is not possible if we wish to maintain our current quality of living. The same holds true for oil and coal; though it is in our best interest to minimize our use of the aforementioned goods, it would be more detrimental to immediately remove them from our lives. So, if water bottles are utterly unnecessary and ecologically harmful, and if good-ol’ fiscal common sense doesn’t curb their allure, only one option remains. They must be banned from campus.

I cannot claim credit for this idea. Nine schools throughout the country have successfully banned the sale of plain-water bottles on campus, including St. Bens University and Macalester University. The  University of Vermont hopes to become the tenth ater this year.

Even cities such as San Francisco and New York have prohibited the purchasing of water bottles with city money. The point is that people are beginning to recognize the fallacies with this opulent practice, and Union should follow suit. At the very least, we should take a stand and stop selling Union-brand bottled water.

I encourage both students and faculty to engage in an active Take Back the Tap campaign. Let’s unite to rid Union of a blatantly harmful product. Some may see this vision as utopian, but it’s not. It’s barely progressive. No, it’s just logical.

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