Catholic colleges join water bottle ban

CNS photo from Reuters

Water may be everywhere but these days it’s not in plastic bottled form at Seattle University or the University of Portland.

The two Catholic universities joined a group of eight colleges that have banned the sale of plastic water bottles on campus according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Jesuit-run Seattle University just got on board in September– after a three-year campaign — and Portland University, affiliated with the Congregation of  Holy Cross, began its ban back in February.

Both schools were tapping in — so to speak — on nationwide campaigns to educate consumers on the environmental costs of bottled water and urge people to use free public tap water.

The West Coast colleges focused on ending the sale of bottled water at school cafeterias, concession stands and vending machines. They installed bottle fillers at water fountains around campus and encouraged students to carry reusable water bottles.

Seattle University is selling steel water bottles to students at a discount. Proceeds from the sales will be used to install water treatment systems at medical clinics in Haiti, where less than half of the population has access to clean water. A university statement says every bottle sold will help four Haitians drink clean water for 10 years.

The switch is also economical. According to officials at Seattle University, tap water costs half a penny per gallon, while a 20-ounce bottle of water costs $1.50 from a university vending machine, or about $9.60 a gallon — making it almost 2,000 times more expensive. The ban also will help the school reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since oil is used to make, deliver and dispose of water bottles.

Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp, president of  University of Portland, said the plastic water bottle ban also has another aim — to “help focus attention on the critical issues of sustainability and water rights.”

A university statement said the decision not to buy or sell plastic water bottles also fits into the Catholic belief that “water cannot be treated as a commodity and that access to water is a universal and inalienable right.”