Bottled water is drying up on college campuses, thanks to a growing movement led by student activists to ban its sale on school grounds. In their place, schools are handing out reusable bottles to incoming freshmen at orientation and installing hydration stations that serve up free filtered water. Bloomberg News reports that more than 90 colleges and universities, headlined by Harvard and Brown, have already banned the sale of or restricted the use of bottled water on campus.

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Photo: Michael P Weiss

In a move that smacks of desperation, the International Bottled Water Association released a YouTube video earlier this year to combat what it describes as “misinformation.” The video pits anti-bottled water campaigns against more traditional objects of protest like war and unfair labor practices, encouraging students to “fight for freedom of choice.”

Why are colleges and universities taking a stand against bottled water? For starters, it’s a highly wasteful product. According to the anti-bottled water group Ban the Bottle, it takes approximately 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all of the plastic water bottles used in the US — enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. And even though most plastic bottles are recyclable, anywhere from 30 to 40 million of them make it into the landfill each year. But as if that wasn’t reason enough, students are questioning the calculus of corporations taking what should be a virtually free, universally-accessible resource, commodifying it, and selling it back to them for profit.

+ Ban the Bottle


Lead photo © Flickr user stevendepolo