UVM to end sale of bottled water

The sale of bottled water on campus will end in January 2013, making the University of Vermont one of the first institutions nationwide to pass this type of sustainable beverage policy, according to University Communications. UVM will remove bottled water from its 57 vending machines and in retail outlets and will also mandate that one-third of the drinks in vending machines be healthy choices,University Communications stated.    Though the administration made this decision, Director for the Office of Sustainability Gioia Thompson said that student groups such as Vermont Student Environmental Program (VSTEP) really led the way. “In 2010 and 2011, Mikayla McDonald and Marlee Baron each served as both VSTEP president and SGA senator,” Thompson said.  “They were key in connecting with SGA committees and leaders, who responded with resolutions.” Thompson also said that UVM’s campus has 200 water fountains that can easily be retrofitted with water bottle filling stations like the ones in the Davis Center, for about $300 each. “Other fountains will need to be replaced, costing in the thousands,” she said. “There may be some new fountain locations requiring new plumbing, as is the case in the Waterman building’s recent fountain upgrade.” People will also be able to get free water and buy cups or reusable bottles at the retail dining locations across campus, Thompson said. President of VSTEP, Greg Francese, said that his club has worked directly with the Office of Sustainability and student organizations in order to educate the University community about environmental issues such as the impact of bottled water. Francese said that VSTEP’s main goal for the past five years has been banning the sale of bottled water, introducing campaigns such as Bring Your Own Bottle days in which VSTEP encouraged students not to buy bottled water for one day. “We wanted people to think about why they’re purchasing bottled water,” he said.  “The way we’ve done that is basically just by educating people about why you can get virtually the same product for free out of a water fountain.” Though the decision to end sales of bottled water on campus is finally official, Francese said the news has not sunk in yet. “It feels surreal, I guess it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said. “There’s been a lot of congratulatory emails, and I got interviewed by one of the local news stations, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s happening.  “When it happens it will be great,” he said. Former VSTEP president Mikayla McDonald said that she is very supportive UVM’s decision to let the Coke contract expire and to remove the sale bottled water from campus. “UVM has shown great leadership with this action and will undoubtedly motivate students in other American colleges and universities to take similar initiatives,” she said.