Posts tagged ‘Bottled water’

Despite Budget Woes, University Still Has Money for Bottled Water

By Scott James, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: April 15, 2010
Times are tough at the University of California. The state’s budget crisis has led to cuts, layoffs and higher student fees.

It is enough to drive someone to drink — as long as it’s not plain old tap water.

Even though money is tight, the university has spent about $2 million in recent years  on brand name, commercially produced and delivered bottled water to campuses in San Francisco and Berkeley. With both cities boasting some of the nation’s highest-quality drinking water, critics see bottled water as a questionable expense that is bad for the environment.

“Bottled water is, largely, an unnecessary waste of money,” Peter H. Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland and a MacArthur genius fellowship recipient for his work on water issues, wrote via e-mail from Alexandria, Egypt, where he was attending a conference on water sustainability. “But there are also substantial environmental, social and political costs not captured in the price alone.”

To be clear, university staff members and students are not sitting around sipping emerald bottles of sparkling Perrier. The bottled water tends to be delivered in three-to-five-gallon jugs, then dispensed in rented coolers. Both campuses have contracts with Arrowhead, a division of the Swiss corporation Nestlé.

The University of California, San Francisco, has paid Arrowhead $250,000 to $320,000 a year since 2004, according to estimates supplied by the university.

At the Berkeley campus, officials said a total of $522,215 had been paid to Arrowhead for the three fiscal years that concluded in 2009.

Contrast that with the City of San Francisco, where bottled water has been banned in government offices. The move came after a 2006 investigation by The San Francisco Chronicle, which revealed that the city spent $500,000 a year on bottled water and supplies.

“Bottled water is hundreds to thousands of times more expensive than providing tap water,” said Dr. Gleick, whose new book, “Bottled and Sold. The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water,” explores the issue.

Beyond the expense, there is the environmental impact. Tap water to both San Francisco and Berkeley is transported at little cost and pollution free by gravity, while bottled water arrives on trucks that burn fuel.

Michael Rodriguez, director of strategic sourcing at U.C.S.F., said the university reviewed its bottled-water policy when San Francisco adopted its ban. Purchases of single-use bottles have since declined, he said, but orders for jugs and coolers continue, in part for safety reasons.

Mr. Rodriguez said that infrequently used faucets and aging plumbing could affect water quality, and that tap water was not readily available in every office of 20 university buildings scattered around the city. And with the U.C.S.F. Medical Center on campus, he said, Arrowhead would supply drinkable water in the event of an earthquake.

“I might be taking a conservative approach,” Mr. Rodriguez said, “but I’ll take that criticism, rather than be unprepared in the event of a disaster.”

It sounds reasonable, except that the city already has a plan to supply water to the hospital after an earthquake. Also, Mr. Rodriguez said he did not know of any test results that show tainted water from old pipes. And rented coolers are clearly not needed everywhere. On a recent afternoon, Arrowhead made a delivery to the modern Kalmanovitz Library, placing bottled water in a fully-outfitted kitchen, next to a working sink.

There is an effort in Berkeley to wean the campus from bottled water. Janet Gilmore, the university spokeswoman, said an “I Love Tap Water” campaign initiated by the university’s health services department had raised awareness of the issue. As a result, Ms. Gilmore said, spending on bottled water is on track to decrease by 25 percent in the current fiscal year.

Ariel Boone, a student senator at Berkeley, said, “Our funds are going to bottled water instead of keeping our libraries open,” and noted that just $15,000 was at stake recently to extend library hours during final exams.

Ms. Boone said the student government recently banned student organizations from using money on bottled water. “We decided it mainly for environmental purposes,” she said, “but also because we’re concerned about money.”

But does the saving make a difference? All told, the University of California budget is more than $20 billion. Even if the expense of bottled water is cut, that would surely be — excuse the pun — just a drop in the bucket.

But Dr. Gleick does not agree with that argument. “There are the direct economic costs,” he said, “and while they may not be huge, we live in an era where we can no longer afford to waste money unnecessarily.”

Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco.

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April 15, 2010 at 10:04 PM Leave a comment

USF Net Impact makes green improvments to Malloy Hall

Yesterday, the “Campus Greening Initiative” spearheaded by the USF Net Impact graduate program came to fruition. The goal of the initiative, launched back in the fall semester, was to install new water fountain applications which would enable students to fill reusable water-bottles, cutting down on the some 3,000 bottles thrown away on the USF campus everyday.  Approved by Dean Mike Duffy in the fall, Malloy Hall has officially become the pilot site for this environmentally friendly project. Co-chaired by MBA students Arash Bayatmakou and Sabeen Ahmad, Net Impact is planning to hand out USF custom reusable water-bottles to incoming students in the fall to encourage the success of the program and promote and expand organization’s ideas.

The movement is one of several initiatives that USF Net Impact, an organization dedicated to the merging of social and environmental responsibility with business, is tackling. The group is also currently working on implementing a composting program and a recycling education/awareness campaign in Malloy as well.

Net Impact

Mission
Net Impact’s mission is to improve the world by growing and strengthening a network of new leaders who are using the power of business to make a positive net social, environmental, and economic impact. With more than 125 student and professional chapters on 4 continents in 75 cities and 80 graduate schools, a central office in San Francisco, and partnerships with leading for and nonprofit organizations, Net Impact enables members to use business for social good in their graduate education, careers, and communities.

USF Chapter Mission:

Net Impact at USF is organized for and by USF graduate students to inspire social and environmental stewardship amongst the University’s future business leaders. This is accomplished by:

  1. Exposing students to corporate, social, and environmental responsibility issues.
  2. Introducing concepts of sustainability that are applicable in all sectors of industry.
  3. Creating a network of businesses, organizations, and professionals for students to broaden their business education, refine their leadership skills, and pursue their professional goals.

Click here for more on USF Net Impact

Click here for more on USF Net Impact Undergrad

February 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM Leave a comment

NYU has made a wake. Let’s Surf it USF!!

Dining’s bottled water ban a small step for sustainability
by Pratik Mehta, NYU

As part of NYU Dining’s incremental push toward environmental sustainability, both the Kimmel Market Place and Upstein have removed bottled water from their meal plan options. They now provide compostable cups made from plant material to students who wish to drink water or fountain soda.

Bottled water, like several other convenience items, is an environmental disgrace. According to the Earth Policy Institute, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year, and more than 17 million barrels of oil are needed annually to satisfy this demand in the U.S. alone. NYU Dining made the right decision in removing bottled water from the thousands of meals students consume each week.

However, this action is a small step. Despite boasting about sustainability efforts on its website, NYU Dining has been painfully slow in making other reforms that are equally logical and worthy of attention.

First, Kimmel and Upstein still offer paper cups alongside the more eco-friendly compostable ones (or they did when I visited them earlier this week). In fact, the paper ones were larger than the compostable ones. Like any reasonable college student, my first instinct was to make the most of the money spent on my meal plan and to grab the bigger cup, which utterly defeats the lofty rhetoric on the NYU Dining website.

If NYU Dining is serious about sustainability, it should offer equally-sized paper and compostable cups, and, really, it shouldn’t offer paper cups at all. Although paper cups are a step up from bottled water, they are no match, sustainability-wise, for the compostable cups.

Second, the carry-out cartons at traditional dining halls do not mesh with NYU Dining’s commitment to “reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable planet.” These cartons are more eco-friendly than previous containers (as the stickers slapped on them remind diners), but the fact remains that most of these cartons will be thrown in the trash and inevitably find their way to landfills. When you count the thousands of carry-out meals that are eaten each week, the environmental damage adds up quickly.

Smith College in Northampton, Mass., requires students who want take-out meals from dining halls to bring their own Tupperware containers. Instead of incrementally improving the quality of carry-out cartons, Smith’s policy eliminates the problem of pollution in one fell swoop.

A similar situation exists with disposable cups, even the compostable ones. I agree it is fantastic to have cups that degrade into soil and nutrients over a period of years, but why hurt the environment at all? Many environmentalists quibble over the benefits of paper vs. plastic; biodegradable vs. compostable; and recycling vs. reusing an environmentally harmful product. Often they’re missing the point.

The real solution is reducing the amount of products we use every day. This would diminish our environmental impact and circumvent the original problem of pollution. To this end, the University of Maryland distributes reusable hot/cold mugs to students, eliminating the need for disposable cups. A similar action where NYU Dining distributes metal or Nalgene bottles to all students with a meal plan would eliminate thousands of cups in the garbage, regardless of whether they’re compostable.

NYU Dining was right to remove bottled water from its meal plan options at Kimmel and Upstein. However, if it is to truly stand up to the rhetoric and image of sustainability presented on its website, there are several options that still must be implemented.

USF: We need to catch on to this.

December 7, 2009 at 10:08 AM Leave a comment


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