Colleges across country promote sustainability by banning disposable water bottles

An effort to promote sustainability by banning the sale of bottled water has recently spread to college campuses across the country.

The sale of bottled water is currently not banned at Geneseo but Mark Scott, executive director of Campus Auxiliary Services, said that there has been debate in the past over whether CAS should restrict bottled beverages.

“This issue has come up a few times in the past years,” said Scott. “My position on it really is multifold. I want to be able to continue to give our campus community choice.”

Scott said that student demand for bottled water has decreased in the past few years.

“That’s reflective in the fact that bottled water sales in our restaurants and cafés have significantly gone down,” he said.

Geneseo Environmental Organization president, junior Yael Massen, said that the group has been fighting an ongoing battle to reduce the quantity of bottled water on campus.

“GEO has conducted a long, drawn-out campaign that ended up going nowhere,” said Massen. “We tried to get the admissions office to stop giving out free disposable water bottles to visitors, but that failed. And over the summer, with administrators, we did an online campaign via email, but that didn’t succeed either.”

According to Scott, the overarching concern of CAS, as well as some members of the student body, is the convenience of bottled water.

“With the admissions office, what would be difficult for me to support is visitor safety,” said Scott. “I would hate on a really, really warm day that if we’re giving a tour to someone, that we could not offer someone a bottled water for them to take with them.”

According to Massen, although the fight for a ban has died down somewhat, the issue still remains a priority for GEO.

“With the hydrofracking issue being a big concern, water bottles are still on our conscious, but not at the forefront,” she said. “But if CAS decides to go ahead with it, GEO is fully in support of a ban.”

“I would definitely be in support of something like that,” said junior Brandyn Friedly.

Junior Shelby Tompkins said that a water bottle ban would be beneficial to Geneseo.

“It would also help if the college gave away reusable bottles, like at hockey games,” she said.

Despite the potential environmental benefits of a ban, the convenience of water bottles is an issue for many students.

“I probably wouldn’t like it, even though it’s environmentally friendly, just because I don’t want to drink water from the sinks on campus,” said sophomore Lisa Pellegrino. “I just feel safer drinking from [disposable] water bottles.”

“I don’t have anything against reusable water bottles,” said sophomore Cheyenne Callerame. “I own one, but I think it’s important that students have constant access to water, even if it’s bottled.”

Colleges choosing to enact these water bottle bans have installed “hydration stations” to compensate for the lack of bottled water on campuses. “Hydration stations” are designed specifically for the purpose of refilling reusable bottles, providing students with easy access to filtered water.

CAS has been more aware of the needs of students with refillable water bottles and installed a few “hydration station”-type water fountains around campus.

“Over the years we have installed more of the goose-neck water stations so that students can fill their water bottles, like the one in the library,” said Scott.

CAS has made other moves in the past years to move toward a more sustainable campus, such as removing trays in dining halls, reducing paper towels and Styrofoam and eliminating unnecessary food packaging.

“There are things that we’ve done over the years, just because we know that it’s a good thing to do and the right thing to do,” said Scott.