Bottled water is a big no-no at the University of Maryland. Sure, water is a great alternative to soda and sugary juice, but it’s not water that students have a problem with; it’s the bottle.
The environmentally-conscious students are fed up with others using non-reusable containers to drink their water. Not only are they giving those students the cold shoulder, they’re asking administrators to stop selling bottled water on campus.
However, school administrators say banning bottled water could cause other problems. They don’t want to discourage students from drinking water. At a time when the “Freshman 15” is a norm on campus, universities want to be able to offer the healthiest choice from the vending machine.
“It’s definitely a complex issue,” said Aynsley Toews, coordinator of the University of Maryland Office of Sustainability. “Then there’s flavored water, there’s Vitamin water. What do you do with those?”
The bottled-water industry says that doing away with of bottled water would be a brash decision.
“You are telling people not to drink water? Holy mackerel,” said Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. “It’s odd that colleges would look to ban a healthy, legal product.”
Maryland is not the only university taking a stand against plastic bottles. American University is replacing 100 of their water fountain faucets with more bottle-friendly ones, while the University of the District of Columbia is placing “hydration stations” throughout the campus.
Banning plastic bottle sales remains controversial. While some university administrators are concerned that doing away with them will keep students from drinking water, several students want their university to take a more active role in reducing waste.
Chris O’Brien, American University’s director of sustainability, reassures students and universities that the goal is not to drink less water, it is to replace disposable water bottles with re-usable ones.
“It’s cool to have a refillable water bottle,” he said. “It’s not cool to be seen with a product that produces greenhouse gases and is not sustainable.”