University cutting back bottled water

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- This fall, Washington University is phasing out almost all of its sales of bottled water.

It costs society a lot more in energy and expense to bottle water than to have students head for the nearest hallway drinking fountain, said Matt Malten, the university's assistant vice chancellor for sustainability.

"We see this as a waste issue and an energy issue," Malten said.

A university spokeswoman said Coca-Cola Co., the university's beverage dispenser and maker of Dasani, will stop selling bottled water in almost all campus locations by the end of the fall semester.

Malten, the campus sustainability chief, said the bottled-water prohibition arose from the university's effort to find energy-conserving methods for all activities, including transportation, building maintenance and food services.

It's also foolish, Malten said, to rely on bottled water "when the U.S. Mayor's Conference rated our tap water as the best in the country."

The conference said that about St. Louis city water in 2007. Washington University, which straddles the city-county line, gets water from both the city and the Missouri-American Water Co., which serves St. Louis County.

A check of other area campuses showed that St. Louis University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Harris-Stowe State University have no immediate plans to ban sales of bottled water. Lindenwood University in St. Charles is negotiating with its vendor to phase out bottles, a spokesman said.

At the Washington University student union, Sida Yan drank a bottle of Aquafina she bought from a Sam's Club. The junior from Chesterfield said she'll probably continue carrying her bottled water to school.

"I've been drinking it this way for years," she said. "It just sounds more purified in a bottle."

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