Finding a pre-packaged plastic bottle of water on campus this fall is not as easy as it used to be.
Pre-packaged water is no longer sold on campus, part of a campus-wide initiative to “Take Back the Tap,” which encourages faculty, staff and students to utilize reusable containers, bottle filling stations or just plain old tap water from faucets.
“It is estimated that 45 percent of what’s inside a pre-packaged bottle of water comes from a tap anyway,” Linda Kogan, director, Office of Sustainability, said recently. “And Colorado Springs municipal water is among the best in the country – there’s just no reason to waste money and resources buying bottled water.”
Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability and the Office of Sustainability took that message to first year students this year. As part of Mountain Lion Experience student welcome activities, students got a UCCS logo-emblazoned metal water bottle, what a previous generation might have called a canteen. The Green Action Fund and the Division of Auxiliary Services purchased the bottles for the students.
The multi-colored, made-in-the-U.S. metal bottles were a hit as students learned why bottled water is expensive personally and to the environment. The metal bottles carried a different message about the waste of plastic-bottled water.
In her presentation, Sara Santa Cruz, a SEAS member, said 25 percent of the volume of bottled water represents the amount of petroleum used in the manufacture and transport of each bottle. She also said bottled water quality is less regulated than tap water by the EPA.
Additionally, millions of bottles end up in landfills or in waterways and there are possible long-term health effects of exposure to chemicals in plastic.
Students are getting the message, Kogan says. Now it’s time for faculty and staff to both understand the issue and get on board.
The initiative to end bottled water sales on campus began in 2011 with a successful student election ballot question. UCCS leaders accepted the recommendation to no longer sell bottled water and to phase-in the change. The Office of Sustainability and SEAS, were charged with educating the campus about the decision. In preparation for the change, more than 25 hydration stations – water fountains specifically made for refilling tall, reusable bottles – were installed in buildings throughout campus.
“We are asking the campus community to not order bottled water,” Kogan said. “And to join with the first year students in making a difference. Reusable water bottles with the UCCS logo are available at the bookstore starting at $4.99.”
— Photos by Jeffery M Foster