Reducing water flow dries up healthy options

Banning bottled drinks on universities campuses is an all-or-nothing game. 

A bottled water ban at the University of Vermont led to an increase in consumption of sugary, caffeine-filled drinks — instead of the intended increased use of water fountains and reusable containers — according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health this month.

If this is true, eliminating only bottled water is an ineffective and misguided attempt to reduce waste that results in unhealthy beverage choices and little waste reduction. Bottled beverages are essentially bottled water processed to contain flavour, fizz and colour.

Students purchase drinks from vending machines and cafeterias on campus for convenience. Making the healthiest option the least convenient won’t encourage healthy choices. Meaningfully changing the habits of a student body requires first understanding the students’ needs that create those habits. 

Affordability, convenience and personal preference are factors that go into student consumer consumption. To properly reduce waste and promote student health, creative alternatives are needed — other than plastic-encased sugar water.

Water fountains in popular and well-advertised locations and offering affordable reusable bottles are both steps that can be taken to make good choices readily available. 

If universities are truly concerned about their impact on the environment and students’ well-being, they can provide students with options to make conscious healthy decisions about their bodies and their environment.

— Journal Editorial Board

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