The Greener Path

Come Fall Quarter, plastic water bottles may be permanently out of stock on campus. A.S. Council President Wafa Ben Hassine is making good on an old campaign promise: this week marks the writing of a final draft of a bottled-water ban to be proposed to Housing and Dining Services.

The project is twofold: first to discourage students from purchasing the bottles while they are readily available, and then to ban them altogether. Regardless of how late in her term the proposal’s coming to administrators’ desks, it’s still a worthy cause that will hopefully influence a new generation of students to break the habit of using plastic water bottles.

Ben Hassine herself said she hopes the campaign will educate students to make long-lasting lifestyle changes. A.S. Council will hold workshop presentation and other events in collaboration with other campus sustainability groups to encourage students to support the ban. These events include February’s “Breaking the Plastic Habit” event at Porter’s Pub, which included a concert and film screening to raise awareness of water conservation and plastic waste.

A campuswide campaign consisting of facts about the waste could be a good start. The events seem promising as long as A.S. Council is able to get the word out so that attendance at such events is enough to produce tangible change. It is hard to tell just yet how the events will make an impact on the student mindset, given the general apathy present on campus. Yet enacting the ban will likely be the jolt students need to realize the enormity of their waste: According to the Earth Policy Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles end up as garbage.

UCSD wouldn’t be the first campus to implement a ban: Seattle University, DePauw University and Washington University in St. Louis have already barred water bottles from campus, and UC Santa Cruz has a similar measure in the works.

All of these bans started from student initiatives, as the project doesn’t require much in the way of start-up costs.

Not every campus that attempts to ban water bottles is successful. At Cornell, efforts stalled due to the university’s contract with Pepsi (the parent company of Aquafina).

For UCSD, additional costs are necessary to build more water fountains and filters — the costs of which are not finalized, and will be paid for by Housing and Dining Services after the initial proposal.

Many perceive bottled water as cleaner than tap, but private corporations are not regulated to the extent that tap water is. Bottled water undergoes extra filtering for taste, but the bad taste of tap water tastes comes from minerals, not because it is unclean — so sparing those extra couple of bucks on a bottle of Evian can’t be said to have any negative impact on anyone’s health.

The proposed ban shows that Ben Hassine’s office is making important, concrete steps toward reducing our carbon footprint. This change could even represent that rare sweeping, practical reform that most often eludes council.

Readers can contact Madeline Mann at [email protected].

Jennet Liaw/Guardian

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