Ban Bottled Water on University Campuses

Target: Tobin Smith, Vice President for Policies, Association of American Universities

Goal: Use the recent bottled water ban at Pacific University as an example for other U.S. Colleges and Universities

Disposable plastic water bottles account for massive amounts of pollution in every stage of their product life-cycle.  The industry shifts the focus away from providing safe drinking water for those in need, and the bottles are a luxury our planet would do much better without.  As of August 1, 2011, Oregon’s Pacific University terminated the distribution and sale of bottled water on campus in an important step of what will hopefully become a national awakening.  Present this success to Tobin Smith and urge him to consider spreading the ban through all 62 campuses in the Association of American Universities.

According to National Geographic, Americans drink more bottled water than any other nation, the production of which uses 17 million barrels of crude oil per year.  To put the subject into even clearer perspective, the publication released another statistic: “If you were to fill one quarter of a plastic water bottle with oil, you would be looking at roughly the amount used to produce that bottle.”

In a country that consumes 2.5 million bottles of water every hour, Pacific University’s decision to ban these products is a breath of fresh air.  Two of the school’s alumni, Sara Brells and Terra Nielson, spent a year and a half campaigning to make this change.  Though a hard-won victory did come their way, the initiative was difficult to push through.  Surprisingly, the largest contribution to resistance came from widely accepted myths about unsafe tap water.

That’s right, even on a progressive college campus in an area with clean and safe drinking water in every faucet, the idea that tap water is unsafe to drink was as pervasive as it is untrue.  In the battle against the bottle, dispelling rumors like this will be a key to success.  Fortunately the conception is reversible, but colleges and universities with forward-thinking administration and access to safe drinking water will likely be the best places to start the process.

With the costs of using plastic water bottles so high – and their replacement with refillable vessels easily attainable – there is little excuse not to phase them out as soon as possible.  We must kick the self-destructive habit, focus our attention on providing clean drinking water for everyone, and make sure to use what safe tap water is already available.  Alert the Association of American Universities to the importance of this issue and urge Tobin Smith to ban the sale and distribution of bottled water in as many universities as possible.


Dear Vice President Smith,

The water bottles being sold and distributed on college and university campuses are contributing unnecessarily to a worldwide environmental problem surrounding the use and disposal of these products.  The production of bottled water in America accounts for the use of 17 million barrels of crude oil annually – enough  to keep 1 million vehicles on the road for 12 months.  All this so that we can keep leaning on a luxury item that is completely unnecessary, especially on campuses with safe drinking water on tap.

As of August 1, 2011, Oregon’s Pacific University terminated the distribution and sale of bottled water.  This is an important step in what could become a national awakening led by colleges and universities across the United States.  As the Association of American Universities’ Vice President for Policies, you have the power to make a stand against our country’s self-destructive bottled water addiction.

Ease the tremendous burden imposed on our planet’s environment and end this frivolous consumption of precious resources.  I urge you to follow the example of Pacific University and ban the sale and distribution of bottled water in as many campuses affiliated with the Association of American Universities as possible.


[Your Name Here]

photo credit:  Plastic Pollution Coalition via Flickr

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