A group of University students is continuing its crusade to make the University more environmentally friendly by eliminating the sale of bottled water on campus.
As a result of the efforts of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Environmental Issues Commission, the assembly recently passed a resolution calling for the University to cease selling plastic water bottles. During the winter semester, the commission started a petition that garnered several thousand signatures in support of the water bottle ban. Now, the EIC is hoping to further its cause and eventually present the proposal before the University’s Board of Regents.
LSA junior Maggie Oliver, chair of the EIC, wrote in an e-mail interview that many people don’t realize the adverse effects plastic water bottles have on the local environment.
“600,000 bottles of water were purchased in the fiscal year of 2010 at (the University of) Michigan, and the ability to change this number to zero would not only help save the ecosystems that are being destroyed for the bottle water industry, but educate students about why bottled water is environmentally degrading,” Oliver wrote.
She added that since Michigan is surrounded by five bodies of fresh water, residents may have forgotten that water is a precious resource.
“EIC has put the focus on water bottles because water should not be a privatized resource,” Oliver wrote. “With just one extra step by grabbing a reusable water bottle to use instead of purchasing one, our University can make a difference.”
However, members of the EIC or MSA didn’t keep the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability apprised of their recent activity. Andy Berki, manager of the Office of Campus Sustainability wrote in an e-mail interview that the people who work in the office have met with Oliver to talk about forming a relationship between the EIC and the Office of Campus Sustainability, but there was no mention of the resolution to support the elimination of water bottles.
“If we had been contacted by MSA, we would have gladly participated in conversation around the challenges associated with a water bottle ban on campus,” Berki wrote.
If the University’s Board of Regents does agree to ban the sale of bottled water on campus, this would mean that more than 300 campus buildings would need to add at least one water bottle refill station, according to Berki. The money needed to install the refill stations would come from different departments depending on where the stations were located, he wrote. Refill stations in the residence halls could potentially be funded by the Division of Student Affairs, those in athletic facilities might come from Athletics and stations in the Engineering College would be funded by the General Fund, Berki added.
Some campus buildings such as Mason Hall and the Michigan Union already have refill stations that were installed last year as part of efforts by the University’s Planet Blue program. For students who live on campus, refillable water bottle stations are available in places such as the Ross School of Business and the Michigan Union.
Berki added that a reusable water bottle is the easiest way for students to be environmentally conscious and students should take advantage of the clean city water.
“We are fortunate that Ann Arbor has clean, high quality drinking water right from the tap,” he wrote.
However, Berki noted that though the plan benefits the environment, it would limit profits among University divisions — such as the Athletic Department and the Michigan Union — that sell water bottles. Despite this and other concerns, including banning bottled water may cause students to purchase unhealthy drinks, Oliver remains positive about the outcome of the initiative.
“We look forward to continuing our efforts with the ultimate goal for the regents of the University to make a similar ban on campus soon,” Oliver wrote. “We have a few campaigns we are working on that will further the knowledge of this issue to the University and create pressure for leaders at the University to make environmentally-conscious decisions.”
Though the resolution was passed unanimously by MSA, many students aren’t aware of the efforts. When asked to be interviewed by The Michigan Daily, several students declined to comment because of lack of knowledge on the topic.
Engineering sophomore Joe Stevens mentioned the benefits of water bottle filling stations on campus. He said the spigots would encourage students like him to carry around reusable water bottles.
“I’ve got two or three (reusable) water bottles in my room that I could carry with me, but I just don’t,” Stevens said, “There doesn’t seem to be a really good system in place to make (reusable water bottles) convenient.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated where the funding for refill stations in campus buildings might come from.