Members of the DENIN Student Programs Committee, which is conducting a bottled water awareness campaign, are (from left) Lindsay McNamara, Kevin Schmidt, Katherine Adami, Dan Schwam, Amy Snelling and Tyler Yoder.

Consumer consciousness

DENIN student committee launches bottled water awareness campaign

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8:39 a.m., April 25, 2012--The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) Student Programs Committee, made up of eight University of Delaware undergraduate students, has launched an environmental campaign to raise awareness about bottled water.

The campaign is designed to help UD students become more informed consumers and to shed light on the unsustainable environmental, economic and health consequences of buying and drinking bottled water.

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The Student Programs Committee developed an online petition through Change.org that students can sign to pledge to become bottled water free, and they have been circulating hard copies of the petition at campus events, in classes and outside the Trabant University Center. Committee members have been handing out foldable, reusable, BPA-free water bottles to those who sign the petition. More than 900 students have already signed in support of the campaign.

The committee hopes to continue gathering signatures throughout the semester and to encourage the installation of an additional hydration station in the Trabant University Center to complement the existing station, which allows for easy refilling of water bottles, in the Perkins Student Center.

At the Delaware Undergraduate Student Senate meeting in April, the Student Government Association unanimously voted to endorse the Bottled Water Awareness Campaign.

On May 7, the committee will cap off their campaign with a screening of the documentary Liquid Assets outdoors on the North Green to continue to raise awareness about water issues.

The Bottled Water Awareness Campaign is in line with UD's Initiative for the Planet, part of the Path to Prominence, as there are many environmental benefits associated with avoiding bottled water. In the United States, approximately 60 million plastic bottles are disposed, instead of being recycled, of every day. These bottles ultimately end up in landfills or in our oceans, harming marine life that mistake the degraded plastic for food.

Bottled water fuels our dependence on fossil fuels as well. The U.S. bottled water industry consumes over 50 million barrels of oil a year, enough oil to fuel 3 million cars for one year.

There are also many economic reasons to avoid bottled water. The EPA estimates that nearly a quarter of one popular brand of bottled water, for example, originally comes from tap water at a price at least 300 times the cost of tap water. The recommended eight glasses of water a day for one year costs about $1,400 in bottled water versus only 49 cents in tap water.

The composition of tap water, which is regulated by the EPA, is also more closely monitored by the government than bottled water, which has looser restrictions imposed by the Food and Drug Administration and only when the bottled water is shipped across state lines. The plastic the bottles are made from contains unhealthy synthetic chemicals like BPA and phthalates (endocrine disruptors that have been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, autism and obesity), which may leach into the water or the environment after disposal. 

Over 90 colleges and universities across the country have banned or restricted the use of plastic bottles of water on campus, among them Brown University, Seattle University and Harvard University. Like UD, Harvard University, Princeton University and Dartmouth College have all recently installed hydration stations to provide students with access to filtered water and eliminate the need for single-use plastic bottles. 

Those who are interested in supporting the DENIN Student Programs Committee's Bottled Water Awareness Campaign by pledging to become a more informed and aware consumer can click here

Those who are interested in helping to spread the word about the campaign can contact Lindsay McNamara, DENIN Student Programs Committee chair. 

Article by Lindsay McNamara

Photos by Evan Krape

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