by Lam Ho
Starting last year, a national organization started a chapter on campus. Led by April Shi, the Think Outside the Bottle Campaign began its impactful mission to [challenge] the marketing muscle of bottled-water corporations and [work] with communities across the country to opt for tap over bottled water.” As Zack Loehle (C’17), one of the leaders of the Sewanee mission, says, “It is an effort to ensure access to essential water resources in impoverished communities and to reduce the incredible amount of waste produced by disposable water bottles.”
A sustainable but controversial solution to the issues regarding bottled water, “Thinking Outside the Bottle” promotes the use of tap water. By streamlining its use, citizens of the United States can encourage the improvement of water infrastructure. Despite the optimism that resonates with the members of Think Outside the Bottle, it has been cause for debate.
The ultimate goal for Think Outside the Bottle chapters on college campuses is to ban the use of bottled water altogether. This view can be jarringly forward, and not all have reacted kindly in response. The petitions continue to gain signatures, though, while the members of the clubs sit at a table in McClurg and gather supporters. Once enough signatures are collected, April and Zack plan to bring their petition to the Vice-Chancellor and make a direct impact on the use of bottled water at the University of the South.
A disagreement between Sewanee students on Facebook showed the two views: the first person who mentioned the campaign held that bottled water should be banned from places where tap water is safe. The other student’s perspective showed that there are some who value their bottled water as a right in itself.
The argument has become a national issue; today, there are campaigns regarding the pollution of tap water and how people feel forced to drink bottled water when the corporations responsible for the water in their houses are not held accountable. To Zack and April, the solution starts small, and that means by starting a petition and educating students on just what their contributions mean: a more sustainable campus that supports a nationwide shift from bottled water to safer tap water.
Elizabeth Royte of Salon.com wrote an article, published Feb. 5, called “What’s really in your bottled water” and writes, “Bottled water [a] good… stopgap measure. But a wholesale retreat from tap water that meets federal safety standards is likely to end up hurting community water systems. People who drink only bottled water may be reluctant to accept rate increases or approve the bond issues that help pay for watershed protection, for upgrading treatment plans, and for repairing water infrastructure.”
Loehle, member and future leader of the club, says, “The club has several current members, but anyone who is remotely interested in global and/or local water issues, sustainability and unsustainable practices, animal and human welfare should get involved; basically, anyone with at least marginal interest and a little time should contact us. Sustainable water use is an issue that affects everyone.”