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An entreaty to consider the consequences of plastic bottle banning

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Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 9:00 pm

What is the goal of removing choice (bottled water) from our campus? As far as I can tell, most people on campus believe that removing a healthy choice of beverage from campus will help the environment.I think it is ineffective at best.

If the goal is helping the environment, I think that there are much more effective ways to go about that than simply removing bottled water from campus. How much heat is lost through outdated insulation and windows in huge buildings like C/M, Welch and College Hall during the winter? What about all those high-flow showerheads in the dorms? What about, as another opinion piece pointed out, over-watering the grass? I'm sure any of those fixes would reduce the University's environmental impact more then removing bottled water from campus.

No doubt, bottled water has affected campus, but is it actually environmentallyfriendly or even healthy for students? To answer this, I think we can ask why people purchase bottled water in the first place. People purchase bottled water because it is convenient and they perceive a taste difference.

If you remove bottled water from campus, people who perceive a taste differencewill still drink it and where will they turn to get it? Safeway and Costco are the most obvious choices. Costco is several miles up Division and no person walks back from Safeway with a heavy package of bottled water. Thus, acquiring bottled water requires that students get in their cars and drive to the store. Did you know that the vast majority of pollutants from your car's tailpipe are emitted during the first few minutes of driving, before your catalytic converter is warmed up? NASA estimates we could reduce pollution from cars in this country by 30 percent if we just preheated our catalytic converters (sadly, there is not cheap or reliable technology to do so). You can imagine how many pollutants are released in that short jaunt to Safeway.

People also drink bottled water because it is convenient. Say you are on your way to class in the morning and forgot your water bottle (we will assume you have one, after GSBA gave out thousands of them), and you stopped to get a quick bagel to eat in class.

You would rather wash your bagel down with some water. However, it is no longer available for sale and you opt for coffee or sugary juice solution. You just added 150 calories to your already COG-addled diet. Can that be healthy? It is hard to study in Crosby after you lost your intramural soccer game (those referees?)when you have to go to the water fountain every five minutes because you forgot your water bottle. You crave refreshment in a bottle, so Gatorade it is. Oh, how satisfyingly calorific. Most people purchase water on campus because it is much more convenient than the alternatives. Most people need that choice occasionally.

I have a solution to our bottled water conundrum that is better for the environment and the students, all while showing Gonzaga's greenness. Outside of the beginning of school, Fall Family Weekend and the end of school, the vast majority of bottled water is purchased using Flex. Flex seems like free money and most people don't mind how much things cost if they pay for it in Flex, so raise the price on bottled water on campus. Raise them to ridiculous heights. Make people pay through their teeth. I want to see $5 bottled water on campus. In the meantime, make Sodexo donate all of the profits it makes from $5 bottled water to purchasing carbon offset credits and Nalgene bottles (or whatever they are called) for every student on campus. In addition, I want to see little cards next to every price tag for bottled water telling the purchaser that when they pay $5 for this bottle of water, they are purchasing carbon offset credits for that plastic bottle. I want people to know that when they buy bottled water at Gonzaga, they hurt their wallet to help the environment, but I would also like the choice to buy bottled water on campus. Both of those goals are compatible.

We do not need to remove a choice to help the environment; we just need to think about the way we do it.

Stephen Forner is a senior at Gonzaga

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