November 4, 2010

S.A. Calls for End to Bottled Water on Campus

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The Student Assembly passed a resolution Thursday to phase out bottled water sales on campus.  Resolution 35 was presented by Take Back the Tap — a campus group devoted to the issue — with support from other student organizations and administrators such as Kyu Whang and Kent Hubbell ’67.Although several S.A. members voiced concerns about logistics, most agreed with Resolution 35’s sentiment and said they admired the current progress.  Some S.A. members expressed fear that the University may charge students to make up for lost revenue from bottled water sales and the costs of structural changes to tap water systems. Kristen Loria ’11, a member of Take Back the Tap, said that even if the cost per student was as high as $65, buying bottled water would still cost more over time.Another concern was limiting choices for students who might not want to forego the convenience of bottled water. Some noted during the discussion, however, that the resolution would not prevent students from buying bottled water off-campus.    “Bottled water has many severe social, environmental and economic problems,” K.C. Alvey ’12, vice president of Take Back the Tap said in reference to a global water crisis.Take Back the Tap’s mission is to reduce the supply and demand for bottled water on campus and eventually ban bottled water sales by educating people about the issue and incorporating it into Cornell’s Climate Action Plan.“Cornell can take a leadership role,” Alvey said.  “It’s a huge opportunity.”Take Back the Tap campaigns have succeeded at other universities, including Brown and Oberlin, which are in the process of phasing out bottled water.“It’s an unsustainable product,” Sherry Martin ’11, president of Take Back the Tap, said.Producing, shipping and disposing of plastic water bottles requires oil. According to Take Back the Tap’s website, 1.5 million barrels are used annually for plastic bottle production, enough to fuel 100,000 cars per year; 86 percent of  bottles in the United States do not get recycled.“The money is spent on a disposable product instead of investing in long term infrastructure,” Alvey said.  “Improving drinking water infrastructure is key.”Fulfilling this goal will involve working with Facility Services to make water fountains more visible and accessible. Take Back the Tap also wants to put filters in dorms because many students do not like the idea of sink water. “Cornell Dining has a long way to go [to make this a reality],” Alvey said. Cornell’s water, which comes from Fall Creek and goes through a filtration plant, consistently exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.Generally, municipal water is also subject to the more frequent and rigorous EPA testing than bottled water, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.All bottled water sold at Cornell comes from Aquafina because the University has a contract with Pepsi Co. The bottling plant is in Purchase, N.Y., four hours away from Ithaca, and uses municipal tap water as its source, according to Take Back the Tap.Currently, there are signs posted in all dining facilities about the consequences of bottled water and all North Campus retail locations sell reusable water bottles.Take Back the Tap hails Manndibles cafe as an ideal model. A spigot in the cafe provides free filtered tap water to those with reusable water bottles, and disposable paper cups are sold for about 20 cents.

Original Author: Laura Shepard