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UVM Bans Bottled Water And Mandates Healthy Vending Options; Seeks New Contract

Posted On: 2/2/2012

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BURLINGTON, VT -- The University of Vermont will ban the sale of bottled water on campus. It will also require that one-third of beverages sold in the campus's beverage vending machines be "healthy alternatives" to sodas and other high-calorie and sugary drinks.

UVM's announcement came five months prior to the end of a 10-year contract with Coca-Cola of Northern New England. The bottler provided all beverages in vending machines and 80% of bottled beverages served in the university' s retail, residential dining and catering operations, totaling more than 1.1 million bottles a year.

Beginning July 1, the university will no longer have a beverage contract with corporate sponsorship in return for exclusive "pouring rights." Instead, Sodexo, which operates UVM dining services and campus stores, will select a mix of beverages through its own national contracts and local connections.

Under its exclusive contract, Coca-Cola had reportedly paid UVM $482,000 a year for exclusive pouring rights. UVM said it will forgo that revenue, but expects to recoup some of it from new contracts to be negotiated with other vendors who will diversify the beverages offered on campus. The athletics department will issue a separate request for proposals for beverages at athletics events, creating a source of revenue to replace the existing one.

The sale of bottled water in UVM's 57 vending machines and retail outlets will end in January 2013, allowing time for the university to convert 75 drinking fountains across campus to water bottle filling stations. The goal is for students to fill their own reusable bottles with water, rather than disposing of plastic bottles.

The "healthy" drinks that will occupy one-third of campus vending machines may include flavored water without added sugar; reduced-calorie carbonated beverages; teas, reduced-calorie fruit drinks; juices with 50% or more real fruit juice; and low-fat dairy beverages.

The campus-wide effort was spearheaded by the Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP), a student run, non-profit organization formed to expand UVM's recycling program and address environmental issues on Vermont campuses. A resolution calling for the end of bottled-water sales and the creation of a sustainable beverage system was passed by the UVM Student Government Association.

The university said it will release a request for proposals in February for the vending contract. The new vending contract will end in 2015, coinciding with the end of the existing university dining contract.