Ban on sale of bottled water a step towards sustainability

By The Beacon | February 3, 2010 9:00pm

By The Beacon Editorial Board

The University of Portland's move to eliminate plastic water bottle sales on campus should evoke, at the very least, some response from everyone who passes through The Cove.

We applaud the efforts of UP to cut back on waste and we encourage others to see this as a first step towards greater efforts in sustainability both on and off campus.

And when it comes to increasing sustainability, bottled water is certainly an easy target.

For a substance so essential, the prospect of charging people for it seems perplexing.

You don't see anyone privatizing air. In Portland, where we are fortunate enough to have clean and cheap tap water, the prospect of removing bottled water altogether becomes that much more viable.

Most first steps are small, and naysayers have the right to point out that the revoking of bottled water is a drop in the bucket when compared to the remainder of bottled beverages that still sit on The Cove's racks.

But to those objectors, consider the pervasiveness of bottled water in today's society. Indeed, our own generation transitioned from a time when drinking water from a faucet was more natural than buying it in a bottle.

And when considering that the worldwide consumption of bottled water per person is expected to eventually surpass the sale of carbonated soft drinks, the university's efforts are far more longsighted than at first glance.

At the very least, the ban should reduce the amount of waste generated on campus.

According to UP statistics, over 53,000 water bottles were consumed on The Bluff and less than 25 percent of plastic water bottles were properly recycled.

Granted, increasing the number and visibility of recycling containers on campus may have improved this number, but it would be no guarantee.

While these numbers are substantial in their own right, consider the fact that the cost and waste of bottled water goes beyond just the end product.

More than just the disposal of the empty bottles, the manufacturing and transportation of these bottles to begin with creates a long chain of environmental waste.

By breaking one link in this cycle, UP is tackling a much larger issue.

Admittedly, the very concept of water rights is understandably an issue that students may have only a vague knowledge about.

Conveniently, the timing of the ban coincides with UP's hosting of the Confluences: Water and Justice, on March 26-28, which will bring the nation's pundits on environmental justice, protection, science, theology, business and others regarding water issues directly to students.

There is a fair amount of educational necessity when it comes to water issues and UP appears up to the task.

Often times it's tough to be the first to make a change.

And so for what it's worth, we congratulate UP's willingness to take a chance, no matter how small, and make a change.