‘Take Back the Tap’ encourages students to give up bottled water

Junior Health and Exercise Science major Zack Zeilik fills up his reusable water bottle in the Library Sunday. There is a group on campus called Take Back the Tap that encourages students to stop purchasing bottled water in favor of reusable water bottles.
Junior Health and Exercise Science major Zack Zeilik fills up his reusable water bottle in the Library Sunday. There is a group on campus called Take Back the Tap that encourages students to stop purchasing bottled water in favor of reusable water bottles.

A growing number of students across the nation are seeing a similar memo: B.Y.O.B. (or “Bring Your Own Bottle”).

More than 90 colleges have banned or restricted the sale of bottled water on campus, including Brown University, Harvard University and the University of Vermont, according to Bloomberg.com.

If it were up to Nic Vasquez, a junior environmental health major and president of Take Back the Tap, CSU would follow suit.

“We have water coming out of a tap so we might as well use that and not pay astronomical rates for the water coming out of the bottles,” Vasquez.

Take Back the Tap is a campaign associated with Food and Water Watch, a non-profit organization that “advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water,” according to its website. The organization has reached out to colleges across the nation to adopt the Take Back the Tap campaign into a student organization that promotes drinking tap water over bottled water.

Vasquez said part of the purpose of the organization at CSU is to educate students on the environmental and economic effects of selling bottled water.

“Only 25 percent of the bottles actually end up in a recycling plant — the rest just go to a landfill or an incinerator, which is kind of sad because we consume so many bottles of water every day,” Vasquez said.

According to Howard Ramsdell, a professor in the department of environmental and radiological health sciences, selling bottled water has become a very lucrative commodity.

“It’s 100 times more expensive to buy water — especially the little bottles — than to turn on the tap,” Ramsdell said.

Ramsdell said tap water is regulated by the EPA and is “ubiquitously safe” in the U.S.

Why would anyone choose to purchase water, then?

“Convenience. That’s really what it boils down to,” Ramsdell said.

“Students should realize the cost of walking around with a bottle of water. It’s in most cases tap water coming from some other municipality in the United States,” said Dale Lockwood, academic coordinator in the school of global environmental sustainability at CSU.

Lockwood said the idea of bottled water is not sustainable and is not “environmentally cheap.”

“If you buy a bottle of water you realize it’s been put into the bottle, (the bottle) has to get made, it’s made out of plastic so the plastics have to get disposed of — that’s a big problem — plastics are largely oil based so we have issues of carbon energy that goes in and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from making the bottle and then after it’s filled it has to be trucked across the country,” Lockwood said.

While discontinuing bottled water sales on campuses may benefit global and economic environment, critics of the movement say it is not right to tell people what they can and cannot buy.

Ramsdell said that while he agrees with the mission of Take Back the Tap, not everyone will, of course.

“Now you may have people say, ‘No, I want my bottled water. Don’t you dare tell me I can’t get my bottled water on campus.’ So have the discussion, that’s politics — open the discussion,” Ramsdell said.

Ramsdell said one step in instituting change is to provide people with convenient alternatives.

As part of his mission to get CSU to stop selling bottled water, Vasquez said he is in the process of contacting Tony Frank and the purchasing department to discuss the possibility of “implementing new drinking systems and improving water infrastructure on campus.”

Vasquez said he believes that as a university that prides itself on sustainability, we need to keep that commitment.

“We should really take that to heart and we should really do everything that we can to become environmentally sustainable and live up to the image that we’re portraying outwards,” he said.