Green Mountain College Enacts Bottled Water Ban
POULTNEY, VT — On August 15, Green Mountain College (GMC) will ban the sale of bottled water on its Poultney campus. Like many campus sustainability initiatives, the ban comes largely as a result of a student-led project.
Andrea Roebuck '14 consulted with the college’s sustainability coordinator Aaron Witham about the most effective way to go about banning the sale of bottled water. Roebuck’s concerns were economic (bottled water is more expensive than tap water) and environmental (only about 14 percent of plastic bottles make it into the recycling bin, and producing plastic bottles takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, according to the Earth Policy Institute).
Witham said Roebuck and other students were also concerned about the commodification of water, which is becoming an ever more precious resource.
“The more we buy and sell bottled water, the more we engage in a culture of treating water as a commodity, incentivizing businesses to extract it from the ground in one community and selling it elsewhere, with little benefit to the people or ecosystem in the community from which the water was extracted,” he says.
Roebuck met with campus stakeholders such as Chartwells, the college’s food service provider, other outside vendors and the college administration. She planned an event in the college’s Withey Student Center last November to raise awareness about the negative impacts of bottled water. The event included a blind taste test featuring bottled water and tap water. Students actually expressed a slight preference for the taste of tap water. Finally, she garnered 163 signatures in support of the ban. Over 25 percent of the residential student body signed the document.
Under Roebuck’s leadership, Chartwells agreed to stop selling bottled water in the dining hall. PepsiCo, which has an existing beverage contract with GMC, agreed to remove bottled water from its soda machines on campus and replace the product with healthier alternatives to regular soda, such as tea and seltzer water.
“With education as the primary focus of our business activity, Chartwells is committed to fostering and promoting sustainable business principles to the Green Mountain College community,” says Dave Ondria, director of dining at GMC. “Participating in the ban on bottled water is just one of the ways Chartwells has chosen to promote responsible and sustainable practices within our dining service.”