Americans spent $10.6 billion on bottled water in 2009—paying up to 1,000 times the cost of tap water—though studies show that bottled water is no healthier or better tasting than municipal supplies.
Senior Frannie Speer, with help from the Office of Sustainability, wants to educate the community on the bottled water industry’s effects on health, pollution and climate change. She is launching the “Choose to Reuse” campaign on Jan. 25 with a 7 p.m. screening of “Tapped,” an award-winning documentary on the bottled water industry. Following the movie, students signing a pledge to reduce their bottled water use will receive a reusable water bottle.
With support from sustainability director Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Speer developed and distributed an online survey to determine why people choose bottled over tap water. Over 400 people responded.
“One of the main reasons students choose bottled water is convenience. Unless you’re in the cafeteria, there isn’t any place to fill up your reusable bottle other than your room or a water fountain,” says Speer.
To encourage reusable bottle usage, the University is exploring the feasibility of installing a few “hydration stations” later this spring. The stations would provide access to filtered, chilled water from the local water system to make refilling bottles easier.
“There’s also a misperception that tap water is not as healthy as bottled water—a misperception the bottled water industry has worked hard to perpetuate,” Speer says. “In fact, municipal water is monitored with higher standards than bottled water. Public water is tested multiple times a day. Bottled water claims to be healthier and better tasting but tests have shown that sometimes bottled water quality can be worse than tap water.”
In the survey, students indicated they would be willing to switch to reusable bottles to reduce waste. “People think that most plastic is recycled, but 75 percent of single-use water bottles end up in landfills, lakes, streams and oceans,” says Speer.
“The University is working broadly toward waste reduction,” says DeLongpré Johnston. “That students like Frannie, with a strong determination to tackle sustainability issues, are taking the lead, is inspiring.”
“There are so many documentaries and television shows focusing on environmental problems that are just too big to tackle, it can seem overwhelming.” Speer says. “Choosing a reusable water bottle is an easy, doable first-step in reducing our personal carbon footprint.”
Speer, an economics major and entrepreneurship minor, is from Augusta, Ga. After graduation, she will be working with Wells Fargo Investment Banking.
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