In recent news, Bemidji State University (BSU) became the first school in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to ban the sale of plastic bottled water on campus after a unanimous vote by the school’s student senate on Feb. 4.
The proposal is still awaiting approval from BSU administration, but the student body is well equipped for the change as BSU’s sustainability office has given incoming freshmen and transfer students reusable bottles since 2009. This is a commitment more institutions of MNSCU, including MCTC, should take as economic and environmental sustainability continue to grow as major concerns in the world today.
The College of St. Benedict’s and St. John’s University was the first campus in Minnesota to approve a similar ban in 2011. The school has 39 hydration stations around campus that count the number of 12-16 oz bottles saved at each station.
MCTC currently has four of these stations, but also has several water fountains with spigots around campus. MCTC should invest more into these hydration stations as well as reusable bottles for students, but as a student body all the resources have been available for us to make our school more sustainable and it is a matter of choice.
MCTC’s Bookstore and C-Store sells roughly 600 bottles of Dasani water every month. That’s nearly $15,000 students and staff spend on bottled water a year, not including vending machines and other locations in the college.
Plastic bottles are still allowed on campuses that have implemented the ban, and it is encouraged to reuse those bottles that have been purchased off campus. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that only 28-31 percent of plastic bottles are recyclable. Most plastics are sent out to sea and forming landmasses of trash that poison and kill aquatic life. Until recycling practices are more efficient, the wisest strategy for consumers is to reduce the consumption of plastic.
Because bottled water is defined as a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is sold as a novelty and convenience for the the consumer. Distributors face less harsh regulations for testing than the EPA requires for tap water. Minneapolis’ public water is tested 500 times daily to ensure its quality and safety. Some prefer bottled water over tap water due to controversy surrounding fluoride in drinking water, but a study conducted by the Food and Water Watch has shown that almost 50 percent of bottling companies’ source is tap water that goes through a filtration process. For most bottled waters, there is no difference in taste or nutritional value.
For companies that do fill from natural sources, they are commodifying water and depleting sources for a profit. They remain unaffected while locals can only standby and watch the wildlife and ecosystem diminish seeing no return to the community.
Water is the basis of all life and MCTC shouldn’t support its privatization. Bottling companies are marking up selling prices at enormous rates, profiting from nature while much of the third world doesn’t have access to their own water systems. Bottled water is a misuse of one of earth’s most crucial natural resources and in future years to come more communities, institutions, and states will continue to advocate against the bottled water industry.