University of Vermont

Snowy Day

Bye-bye, Bottled Water!

UVM has said “Bye-bye, Bottled Water” and "Hello, Local"

As of January 1, 2013 flat, flavorless bottled water is no longer sold on campus (see article). Instead, the University has invested in providing safe, clean drinking water across campus for free. See the July 2015 update below.

Because Burlington's tap water is safe and clean (see Burlington's water quality report), the University can rely on cool, plain, unfiltered tap water to hydrate the campus community. Plumbers have installed bottle fillers on more than 75 of the 215 fountains on campus, and residents quickly become used to filling their own bottles. 

Questions? The left menu will take you to Frequently Asked Questions, the history of this decision, news stories and a request for a fountain upgrade.

July 2015 Update: Lessons Learned from Ending Bottled Water Sales at the University of Vermont

According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health in May 2015, UVM’s decision to end bottled water sales in January 2013 may have had the unintended consequence of increasing consumption of less healthy beverages, without reducing the number of single-serve beverage containers as compared with the previous spring semester. The data show an 8% increase in bottles shipped per capita between Spring 2012 and Spring 2013, and a 25% increase in bottles of sugary drinks shipped to campus as a percent of total beverages shipped. The research was conducted by Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, MPH, RD, Elizabeth R. Berman, BS.  

Before ending bottled water sales and beginning a new contract arrangement without exclusive sponsorship, the University invested in new infrastructure. Plumbers met the goal of installing at least 75 bottle-filling stations around campus, including one just outside every retail dining outlet, at a cost of $100,000. New students receive reusable water bottles and are encouraged to use them.

The research points to the role convenience can play in beverage choice. The upgrades at UVM did not include making free water readily available inside the retail food outlets. Public education about beverage choices waned after the decision to end bottled water sales. The research findings underscore the importance of both making water a convenient choice inside dining outlets and continuing a strong public education program. Each year brings 3,000 new students who do not have the benefit of having participated in or observed the debate that went on before they arrived.

As a result of these findings, a coalition of staff, faculty and students has formed to continue the public education program and find new ways to make water, the healthiest beverage, the most convenient choice in retail outlets, without increasing waste generation. The group is working together on a new campaign to reduce the unnecessary use of single-serve beverages and promote healthy beverage choice. The groups' common goal now is to establish and maintain a system of measuring progress even as beverage offerings and delivery systems evolve in the next five years.

The following changes are underway as of July 2015:

Free, filtered cold water and free cups are now available in all retail dining outlets via fountain beverage machines.

UVM Dining has implemented a new healthy beverage standard requiring that at least 50% of beverage offerings contain 40 or fewer calories per 8-ounce serving. This standard is stricter than UVM’s existing standard, both in definition and in percentage of compliant beverages. 

UVM Dining will introduce Coca-Cola Freestyle machines with ValidFill reusable cups in several retail dining outlets starting in the Fall semester. The machines will have a free water option. 

Beginning in the Fall, University Dining and the Office of Sustainability will roll out a public information campaign with two goals: 1) Promoting free water in dining areas and the use of reusable bottles at the 75 filling stations on campus, and 2) Encouraging healthy beverage choices across campus

The group intends to make the results of the 2015-2016 campaign publicly available after data have been gathered and analyzed. 

Forgot your bottle?
UVM Dining and the UVM Bookstore sell a variety of reusable bottles and cups.

If you have questions or suggestions for the Office of Sustainability, please use the contact us form.

Companies interested in doing business with UVM can contact our Procurement Services. See the "Doing Business with UVM" page for more information. This will allow UVM staff and project managers who are looking to fill defined needs to find interested companies at the time they need that information.