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The Green Buzz, 2.18.11

Stan Cross, The ELC

Water cooler use runs deep in American office culture, so it’s no surprise many offices on campus carry on the tradition. The campus has made a commitment to sustainability, which includes buying more local food in the cafeteria, reducing energy use, landscaping with native plants, etc. Buying and using bottled jug water, however, seems contradictory to Warren Wilson’s sustainability commitment.

According to the Purchasing Department, there are approximately three vendors delivering bottled jug water on campus, but no one knows for sure because offices circumvent Purchasing and order water directly from vendors. The economic cost to Warren Wilson for this bottled jug water is between $4,000 and $5,000 annually. The environmental and social costs are more substantial. Bottled water bottled in one watershed and transported to other watersheds for consumption disrupts the water cycle at the source. Bottling companies have a long history of drawing water out of local aquifers until they are drained, which impacts communities like Fryeburg, Maine, where Nestlé-owned Poland Springs is based. And bottled water – including large jugs – is virtually unregulated and has been found to be less safe from contaminants than municipal tap water. Plus, all those delivery trucks clog up campus and burn up fossil fuel.

There is a movement on campuses across the country to ban all forms of bottled water and to use the money saved to invest in personal reusable water bottle filling stations. These filling stations range from additional faucets on water fountains to fill an average one-liter bottle, to free-standing stations with multiple faucets providing filtered tap water.

When the Campus Greening Crew and Purchasing Department investigated bottled jug water use at Warren Wilson last year, they found that people purchase and drink bottled jug water because it tastes better, they like water cold (most jugs on campus sit atop a cooler that uses electricity to keep the water cold) and they don’t trust that Warren Wilson’s pipes deliver clean tap water. Currently, the Purchasing Department is looking into alternatives to bottled jug water. In the meantime, let us know what you think about this issue. E-mail to greening@warren-wilson.edu.

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