Viewpoint: Rethink the bottled water ban

BY AVERY ROBINSON

Published February 15, 2011

I am sitting on my couch trying to draft an e-mail when all of a sudden I am bombarded with e-mails asking me to sign a petition to ban bottled water sales on campus. I think it's a great idea. There is a gross amount of environmental abuse associated with this industry, and bottled water is worse for you than tap water (tap water is almost always better). Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which has much looser regulations than the Environmental Protection Agency and Safe Drinking Water Act that regulate tap water. However, despite the chemical pollutants that may be found in our bottled water, the health effects, physical and environmental, of drinking bottled water are not nearly as bad as drinking pop (read: soda or Coca-Cola for people outside the Midwest).

If the argument for banning bottled water is based purely on bottles being an environmental tribulation, then the same logic applies equally for pop and other beverages. But the ban does not mention these items, so there must be more to the issue than just packaging.

The cost of bottled water is relatively low — it’s just tap water and a cheap plastic bottle. But colas and other pops require the same amount of water with the addition of high fructose corn syrup or other "diet" sweeteners, natural and artificial flavors (whatever those are), coloring, caffeine and who knows what else. Essentially, take water and compound it by the cost of industrially growing and refining corn and soy.

By removing bottled water from the shelves of vending machines and campus cafés, this ban will push people toward making unhealthy consumptive decisions. Studies have shown that drinking pop and other non-water refreshments leads to poor health, a greater risk of heart disease and weight gain. I know this isn’t the intention of this ban, but you should always think about the consequences of your actions.

I always carry a water bottle, but is it reasonable to expect 40,000 students and 30,000 faculty and staff, as well as visitors to our campus, to always have a water bottle handy? Is it reasonable to compel people to frequently excuse themselves from meetings, classes and work to use the water fountain because they cannot access bottled water (or a cup for their water)?

Michigan Student Assembly, before you vote on this petition, I beg you to consider the consequences of your actions. Do you want people to resort to unhealthy beverages because you took away their water bottles? Educate the campus about water and the impact of bottles through the LSA theme semester, but please don’t make such a bold decision without considering the social and health effects.

Avery Robinson is an LSA junior.