University of Vermont

Update on Bottled Water

Water Bottles

On January 1, 2013 sales of bottled water will end on campus, a decision prompted by years of student activism. That activism coincided with a reduction in sales of bottled water from more than 350,000 per year to below 220,000, even before any official change of practice or advertising and with just a few bottle-filling stations around campus.

What’s happened since announcing the decision in January 2012?

  • UVM  found itself in the national spotlight for this decision, evidenced by numerous articles and radio mentions, and dozens of inquiries. Comments from alumni and campus members were overwhelmingly supportive.
  • Staff in Physical Plant have been adding bottle fillers and chillers to water fountains, and the University is now just a few fountains shy of the stated goal of at least 75 bottle-filling stations around campus by the first of the year.
  • An intern with the Office of Sustainability is plotting the bottle-filling stations on a Google map that will be available in January.
  • A Social Research Methods class, CDAE 250, taught by David Conner, is conducting observations, interviews and surveys about students’ attitudes towards the change.
  • On December 5 a Bottled Water Retirement Party will mark the end of an era at UVM. An art project using plastic bottles is in the works – your contributions to the bins in the Davis Center would be much appreciated.

Why end sales of bottled water? Here in greater Burlington we are fortunate to have our own clean water for daily hydration needs, and we do not need another community’s water to be bottled and trucked to us for purchase. Nor do we need to have these plastic bottles collected by our custodians and then trucked to another community for recycling or disposal.

Why stop serving water, arguably the healthiest beverage available for sale, and keep selling bottled water that has added ingredients or processes? Student activists struggled with this question and decided to keep their focus on supporting free, clean, widely available water for hydration, a basic human need—and that argument won the administration’s support. To address concern about healthy beverage choices, the vending contract now requires that at least one-third of beverages offered meet the “healthy” designation of the American Heart Association guidelines. Faculty and students in the Food Systems Spire will be looking at the health implications of beverage choices, particularly whether people switch to more sugary beverages after bottled water sales end.

Do you have a question or comment, or want to learn more?


Cheers, and to your health!

Gioia Thompson, Director
Office of Sustainability