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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 8, August 2014, Posted On: 7/27/2014

Vermont's Green Mountain College Bans Bottled Water

Emily Jed
TAGS: vending, Green Mountain College bottle water ban, Andrea Roebuck, Aaron Witham, water commodification, Chartwells, college foodservice, Compass Group

POULTNEY, VT -- Green Mountain College will ban the sale of bottled water on its Poultney, VT, campus beginning Aug 15. The ban comes largely as a result of a student-led project.

Andrea Roebuck, a 2014 graduate, consulted with the college's sustainability coordinator Aaron Witham about the most effective way to go about banning the sale of bottled water to reduce its environmental impact on campus. Roebuck and other students were also concerned about the "commodification" of water.

"The more we buy and sell bottled water, the more we engage in a culture of treating water as a commodity, incentivizing businesses to extract it from the ground in one community and selling it elsewhere, with little benefit to the people or ecosystem in the community from which the water was extracted," Witham said.

Roebuck met with campus stakeholders including Chartwells, the college's foodservice provider, other outside vendors and GMC administrators. She organized an event in the college's student center last November to raise awareness about the alleged negative impacts of bottled water. The event included a blind taste-test featuring bottled water and tap water. Students reportedly expressed a slight preference for the taste of tap water.

Roebuck garnered 163 signatures in support of the ban, with more than 25% of the residential student body signing her petition.

As a result, Chartwells, a unit of Compass Group USA, agreed to stop selling bottled water in the dining hall. PepsiCo, which has an existing beverage contract with the college, agreed to remove bottled water from its beverage machines on campus and replace it with "healthier" alternatives to regular soda, like tea and seltzer water.

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