Water without waste: Bottles harm green effort

by Beacon Staff • April 23, 2008

Last week, after reading The Beacon, I reluctantly felt compelled to respond to an opinion article titled, "Going Green the Smart Way." A plague of misinformation has struck Emerson College and this article was only the most recent in a string of examples.

On the issue of bottled water around campus, people seem confused about the now-infamous petition surrounding a bottled water ban for student groups. This petition was signed by students, not SGA-recognized groups, and was to get a proposed amendment to the SGA constitution up for a student vote during the general election period.

True, the petition did not pass, but a clause was nevertheless added into the Treasurer's handbook thereby banning student groups from purchasing bottled water with their SGA funds next year.

Student groups are encouraged to ask for carafes of tap water for their events instead of using the Emerson water bottles; Aramark offers this option.

These aren't lukewarm or unimportant results. With over 200 students on campus signing a pledge to opt for tap over bottled water, there is an increase of awareness and education on campus.

Getting more students interested, aware and discussing the issue is a tremendously positive impact, but apparently there is always a need for more raising of awareness.

Disagreement is welcome. In fact, being critical of one's beliefs and willing to reassess them is the only way to truly educate ourselves. However, interacting with Emerson students over the course of our "Tap That" water week, it appears students are sick of being duped by bottled water.

Many Emersonians didn't know that Aquafina and Dasani are actually from public water sources-our tap water sold back to us at 400 times the cost. Some didn't know that if you fill a water bottle a quarter full, that's how much oil it takes to manufacture, bottle and ship it to you. More wasteful yet, it also takes almost seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water.

Others were surprised to find out our tap water is more strictly regulated than its bottled counterpart. It's a personal choice to drink bottled water or not, but when presented with the facts, I have found most people will ditch the plastic.

Bottled water is much more than only an environmental concern. It would be wrong to label the water campaign of Emerson Peace and Social Justice (of which I am a member) as strictly one with environmentally-friendly undertones.

While the issue does relate closely to nature from an environmental-justice standpoint, we would be remiss at ending the discussion of bottled water here.

Bottled water impacts human rights: privatization undermines our public governance. Large corporations like Nestle seize control of publicly- and democratically-owned bodies of water, privatize them and drain them of all the resources.

Here is one of the easiest things you can do to be a more conscious consumer: purchase a stainless steel bottle for your tap water and stop purchasing.

The biggest response from students is that bottled water is convenient. An interesting argument, since the real inconvenience is waiting in line at a store and spending hard-earned money on the greatest marketing scam in US history. Incovenience is tax dollars spent from my meager paycheck to deal with the overflowing landfills, cleaning up litter and general waste associated with the 86 percent of water bottles that aren't recycled.

Little steps alone will not shape our school's policies. Emerson's administration should indeed be leading the way. However, as we have found in the past with teacher's unions, fair trade, recycling or other general changes from growing concerns of students, the administration doesn't ask us for opinions.

It generally takes a powerful force of students to make an issue known on campus and then four years of putting pressure on the administration to change something. Why fight the small battles, earn victory and wait another three years to see the results of the campaign when we have the ability to do otherwise?