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Bottled Water Ban at Brown University

January 04, 2010

Source: The Providence Journal

Bottled water ban on tap at Brown
By Peter B. Lord

PROVIDENCE — In a typical year, Brown University distributes as many as 250,000 bottles of water on campus. After some students started campaigning against using the bottles, the total dropped by 40,000.

By this time next year, some students hope the total will be zero.

That is the goal of the Beyond the Bottle Campaign, a student-run effort to eliminate bottled water on campus.

Recently, the Brown University Community Council, a group representing students, staff and administrators, passed a resolution supporting the anti-bottle campaign and efforts to find alternative sources of water.

Brown President Ruth Simmons made the motion to pass the resolution, according to Ari Rubenstein, a junior majoring in Spanish, who has led the Brown campaign during the last semester.

Brown is the first Ivy League school to pledge to stop using bottled water. It is working with the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, which is being promoted nationally by a group called Corporate Accountability International.

Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline has ordered City Hall to stop buying bottled water and supported resolutions calling on other government agencies to do the same.

Some 25 other schools are initiating similar campaigns, according to Corporate Accountability International. It lists Providence College as a participant. But student Kathleen Reside, who is listed as a contact person for the campaign, says the school is just starting next semester with an educational program and taste-testing of bottled and public water.

Rubenstein announced the no-bottle commitment Monday in a news release distributed by Corporate Accountability International. In an interview, he explained the campaign was an outgrowth of emPOWER, an umbrella organization at Brown for student environmental groups.

The Brown students began meeting last February, Rubenstein said. They screened an anti-bottle documentary called “Tapped,” supported taste tests and passed out petitions. Rubenstein says the Brown Dining Services administrators told him bottled-water use dropped by 40,000 units since the campaign began.

Now, a group is working on providing public water alternatives at locations around campus where bottled water was sold or distributed. Some large events attract thousands of people to campus, so the group is looking for large, movable containers that can distribute tap water.

What’s wrong with bottled water?

Rubenstein said bottled water represents efforts by corporations to privatize a resource previously considered public and that undermines funding and support for local water companies. Making plastic water bottles consumes millions of barrels of oil. And bottled water is much less regulated and inspected than public water.

Finally, he said, most water bottles end up in landfills rather than getting recycled.

The university had no official comment on the bottle-ban efforts. A spokesman said it will wait until plans are more concrete.

Rubenstein said he’s optimistic. “I think we’re well along on this, and we’ll make it happen,” he said.

For the original article, click here.

To learn how your college or university can think outside the bottle, read the Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives, University Edition.

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