“Should the students of Western Washington University recommend to the administration that all sales of bottled water cease on campus, in order to reduce the university’s environmental impact in terms of plastic, water, and fossil fuels?”

The Water Bottle initiative is sponsored by Anna Amundson, Carolyn Bowie and Sara Purington. Our questions were answered by Carlolyn.

Could you describe what the initiative is?

I'm really excited about this initiative which is to give students an opportunity to voice their opinion on if they would like to see Western end the sale of bottled water on campus. With the student vote, we can demonstrate to the administration that students want Western to stop selling bottled water everywhere on campus including markets, vending machines, and catered events.

What lead you to put this initiative on the ballot?

I'm really excited about this initiative which is to give students an opportunity to voice their opinion on if they would like to see Western end the sale of bottled water on campus. With the student vote, we can demonstrate to the administration that students want Western to stop selling bottled water everywhere on campus including markets, vending machines, and catered events.

Why should students support this?

There are several main reasons to end the sale of bottled water and support this initiative. If Western ends the sale of bottled water on campus, our school can take a stand, be a leader in sustainability, and make a difference. Also, Evergreen State College and Seattle University have already officially done it.

The environment and Western's pledge to reduce its carbon footprint: The production, distribution, and waste generated by bottled water consumption is extremely detrimental to the environment. One out of five bottles in the U.S. are recycled. On average, it takes three times the amount of water to produce the bottle as it does to fill it.

Reinforcing water as a human right, not a commodity exploited and sold for profit: Paying $1.50 for a bottle of water can cost a consumer over $9 per gallon of water. 40% of bottled water is taken from municipal water sources, and oftentimes corporations can go unchecked when taking millions of gallons of water from a communal resource. Tap water, on the other hand, is highly regulated, controlled, and affordable for virtually everyone.

Tap water is healthier! Tap water and municipal water sources are highly regulated and maintained, where as corporations bottling water are rarely checked. 22% of tested bottled water brands contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. 

Here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest we have delicious, fresh tap water flowing from the sky and our faucets! We should drink local and support Lake Whatcom as a sustainable, protected water source.

If the initiative passes, will it need funding to implement? If so, how much and where will it come from?

If Western ends the sale of bottled water, there are two main costs to be considered: 

The potential loss of revenue from sales of bottled water. Students for Sustainable Water has collected some figures on the amount of revenue gained from bottled water, which last year added up to about the price two out-of-state students pay in tuition for a year (keep in mind there are many types of bottled beverages sold at Western, and bottled water is only a part of the profit). We are anticipating that the sales would naturally decrease through increased awareness of the issue, but we plan on working with dining services to hopefully minimize this cost.

The second cost comes from installing more hydration stations and water bottle refilling stations. Members of Students for Sustainable Water are working to apply to the green fee again this year, and in addition urging the administration to install more refilling stations around school. We have heard a lot of positive feedback and demand about the refilling stations and we're working to get more!

 

Official campaign statement:

In 2010 western took a pledge to move towards being a carbon neutral university.  By eliminating the sale of bottled water from our campus we would be reducing our carbon footprint by approximately 2,600 lbs of carbon dioxide per year.  Plastic bottles also create a lot of water waste; it takes three liters of water to make one liter size plastic bottle. The production and sale of bottled water is not only an unsustainable practice, but also infringes on our basic human right to water.  Water should not be exploited as a for-profit commodity at the expense of local communities, but rather treated as a common resource to be managed responsibly.

Here in Bellingham we have the luxury of being able to turn on the tap and receive pure wonderful water for free!  Tap water is a local and sustainable source of safe drinking water.  Drink tap and support your watershed: Lake Whatcom!

By eliminating bottled water on campus we would join the ranks of universities nationwide making a stand for the sustainable use of water.