Green Mountain College is one of the latest colleges in the U.S. to adopt a bottled water ban across campus and we were able to speak with one of the head persons. Aaron Witham, Director of Sustainability, is assisting with efforts in creating a more environmentally efficient campus. Since starting the ban in November 2013, the campus has been reaping in the benefits which include financial savings for students, less waste, and an overall atmosphere that does not rely on “treating water as a commodity”. Witham hopes the school’s efforts will inspire other colleges and universities to contribute to end bottled water sales.
Andrea “Dre” Roebuck, an Environmental Liberal Arts Major, started the campaign as a supplement to her Delicate Balance class, which gives students a chance to build hands-on experience in developing their own sustainability projects. Roebuck led the bottled water ban campaign by creating an experiment by preparing a taste test event in the student center. The experiment was an excellent and successful tactic in raising awareness on campus. Students were asked to blindly taste bottled water and tap water. Results showed that students did not notice the difference in taste however tap water was slightly more popular than bottled water. Roebuck received support from additional campus departments including the sustainability office, business office, dining services, and auxiliary services who all acted as major contributors to the ban.
With the pressures of climate change, Witham found it necessary to institute a change promptly. “I don’t believe it’s right to support a system that treats water as a commodity and incentivizes companies to extract it from community A and ship it to community B with often little benefit to the people or the natural ecosystem in community A.” As water is a valuable resource that is growing scarce, the students at Green Mountain College decided that from an ethical standpoint, it is not fair to take drinking water from another community. Students firmly believe that bottled water is a waste of energy and resources – it requires a substantial amount of energy and tools to extract water and ship it to different areas. Students would rather spend money on something more valuable, such as education.
In addition to banning the bottle, the college is launching efforts to have 100% renewable energy by the year 2020. Efforts are led by a campus campaign called Sustainability 2020, which is helping the campus achieve authentic sustainability. There will be a heavy focus on fossil fuels and reducing waste. Green Mountain hopes to build social capital on campus and reduce the amount of recyclable and compostable material that resorts to landfills by less than 1%.
Cheers to Green Mountain! We hope our supporters are inspired to initiate a ban at their own school.