January 23, 2023

GUEST ROOM | It’s Time to Stop Buying Bottled Water

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 Cornell’s year of water has come to a close. While Cornell’s Take back the Tap initiative’s  water droplet shaped sculptures have educated students about the importance of our tap water, many Cornellians still seem to have missed the message. According to the initiative, we buy between 350,000 and 400,000 single-use water bottles annually on campus alone. Students at the University continue to purchase single-use water bottles, even though our tap water is perfectly safe and much more cost effective. To help save both our wallets and our environment, Cornell students should stop buying bottled water today.

Choosing to drink from the tap could save us a lot of money. The Cornell campus community collectively spends $650,000 on single-use water bottles every year. That same volume of water would cost just $1,000 if it came from the tap — six-hundred and fifty times cheaper. For individuals, single use water bottles can cost a dollar or two, which doesn’t seem like much at first. However, over the course of an academic year, this can add up to several hundred dollars. Reusable bottles, on the other hand, are a one-time purchase, and a cost effective one at that. The Cornell store, for example, sells good quality metal bottles for $30. After only a month this bottle will have paid for itself, and continue holding your water for years to come. 

Bottled water doesn’t just hurt our wallets, it hurts our environment as well. Each year, we buy around eleven tons of water bottles, most of which don’t get recycled. These bottles end up in landfills or as litter, cluttering the otherwise beautiful nature that surrounds our campus. According to Take Back the Tap, the bottles that we buy come at the cost of 115,000 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to burning 265 barrels of oil. In comparison, drinking water from the tap has no associated plastic waste while emitting much less carbon dioxide than bottled water per gallon. 

Many people prefer bottled water because they don’t trust the tap water. This lack of trust is understandable. Cornell’s students come from a wide range of places, some come from areas where tap water has a stigma against it, or is unsafe to drink. I am from Tennessee, where bottled water is quite popular. Tennessee’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but it nonetheless gets a bad reputation for supposedly causing kidney stones. When I moved to Cornell, I opted not to drink the tap water out of habit. Since learning of the excellent water quality here, however, I have refrained from purchasing single-use disposable water bottles. Moving to Cornell is a chance for people like me — and the other 15,000 undergraduate students — to change their behavior. It’s a chance for us to switch on the tap. If you’re an undergraduate: Safe, clean tap water is mere moments away from your dorm room. Buy a water bottle, from the Cornell store or otherwise, and bottle it yourself. All students and staff also have access to Cornell’s water bottle refill stations found in many buildings on campus, which makes filling a reusable water bottle just as easy as going out of your way to buy a disposable one. Tap water is cheaper, more sustainable, and just as convenient as bottled water.

There is no excuse to continue paying into the scam that is bottled water.

Robert Gritton is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.