CSB eliminates sale, purchase of plastic water bottles on campus

August 22, 2011

One of 31 hydration stations that have been installed at CSB

Effective Monday, Aug. 22, the College of Saint Benedict is the first college in Minnesota and one of nine in the United States to implement a water bottle policy which eliminates the sale and purchase of plain, plastic bottled water on campus, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

"Sustainability is central to our institutional values and mission. Not only are there environmental, economic and social costs of production, transport and sale of bottled water, it's important to recognize that water is a fundamental human right. As such, we are choosing to decline to profit from its sale," said Judy Purman, director of sustainability at CSB.

The policy includes the elimination of all bottled water from vending machines, and sales will be discontinued in the bookstore, dining venues and at athletic events. Campus offices will no longer have traditional water coolers. Employees and students, who resume classes Aug. 31, will be able to continue to bring bottled water from home or off-campus, if they desire.

As an alternative, 31 hydration stations (touch-free units mounted to the wall that dispense tap water) have been installed throughout the campus, with at least one in each building. During this initial transition year, the Office of Sustainability is providing reusable bottles to a variety of student and employee groups to encourage the use of the hydration stations.

"The cost of the installation of the 31 hydration stations is offset by the elimination of the water cooler contracts," Purman noted. "By next year, those offices that have eliminated their water coolers will experience a cost savings."

The process of implementing a water bottle policy, which began about a year ago, was encouraged by CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger and reviewed by several campus leadership groups and the CSB Student Senate.

"We took the time to do a lot of education. We conducted a forum on World Water Day last spring and shared a lot of information and statistics about the benefits of 'banning the bottle.' For example, the cost of a 20-ounce bottle of water is $1.50. That works out to $9.60 a gallon, almost three times the cost of gasoline. Statistics like that resonate with college students," Purman said.

In addition to the water bottle policy change, CSB continues to broaden its sustainability practices by going "trayless" in the Gorecki Dining and Conference Center, also effective Monday, Aug. 22.  Trays are no longer available for guests to carry their plates of food and beverages. "The purpose of this change is to conserve resources including labor, water and soap," Purman said. "We also believe that it will reduce the amount of food being thrown away."

Plans also include having students conduct research to gauge student reactions and perceptions to the new "trayless" policy.