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Efforts to ban bottled water at UC Berkeley continue

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MARCH 23, 2012

Efforts to ban the sale of bottled water at UC Berkeley continue this semester, with the Cal Student Store being the first on-campus vendor to eliminate its sale of the product.

As of now, the student store is the only campus vendor that has stopped selling water bottles. Store director Jeff Deutsch said the store has not lost any revenue as a result and that beverage sales have actually gone up this semester.

“People are buying other drinks,” Deutsch said. “We did our best to also replace water with some healthy alternatives like tea and things that aren’t as sweetened.”

Signage telling students to use the store’s water fountains has also been implemented in the store, and Deutsch said the store ordered more plastic refillable water containers to provide a cheap alternative. He added that the store did not stop selling water bottles to make any sort of political statement but rather to reflect student opinion.

The push to ban bottled water began when students voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum in last spring’s ASUC elections that called for the campus to phase out its sale of water bottles. Additionally, last semester, the ASUC Senate passed a bill supporting “Take Back the Tap” — a national campaign promoting increased use of tap water over bottled water. The senate bill set 2014 as the goal year to completely eliminate the sale of bottled water on campus, and created a campus coordinator to help with the efforts.

Following the student store’s elimination of water bottle sales, which went into effect at the beginning of the semester, Ally Beach, the campus coordinator, said the next goal is to stop private vendors from selling bottled water.

Both Beach and Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein — who has led the efforts to eliminate the sale of water bottles — met with the owners of Yali’s and the Free Speech Movement Cafe, with whom they discussed taking bottled water off their shelves for Earth Week next month. According to Goldstein, they are still in communication with both vendors, and it is not known yet whether the cafes will do this.

Goldstein said they plan to approach Cal Dining Director Shawn LaPean soon. LaPean said Cal Dining has been promoting tap water for years and that bottled water sales have gone down as a result.

But LaPean added that Cal Dining would not get to make the decision regarding the elimination of bottled water, and it would have to be a campus policy. He said he would support what the campus decides.

The I Heart Tap Water campaign — a collaboration between Cal Dining, University Health Services and the campus Office of Environment, Health and Safety — also promotes drinking tap water. Trish Ratto, Health*Matters manager for University Health Services, said several hydration stations that provide chilled water have already been installed on campus, with about 15 open to the general public. Hydration stations are infrastructure designed specifically to easily fill up water bottles.

But Ratto said that I Heart Tap Water does not share the goal of completely eliminating bottled water from campus, though decreasing the demand for it is certainly a goal.

“I think there will always be someone that is a visitor to campus that could need to buy a beverage,” Ratto said.

Courtney Moulds covers student government.

MARCH 23, 2012

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