The University of Massachusetts won’t be joining a list of school banning water bottles from their respective universities.
Recently, schools such as University of Vermont and Loyola University Chicago have begun the practice of banning the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. These universities are enforcing this new prohibition in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.
UMass cannot change its bottle policy because of its contract with the Coca-Cola Co., according to Campus Sustainability Manager Ezra Small.
In exchange for promoting the beverage company, the Coca-Cola Co. donates money to the University that is allocated to departments such as athletics and performing arts, Small said.
“It’s a bit of a rock and hard place, because the University acknowledges that we need to reduce water bottle consumption, but if we start to reduce water bottle sales, Coke may threaten to reduce sponsorship dollars back to the University, which benefits thousands of students,” Small said.
If UMass students want to see a change in the way that the University sells bottled water, Small said “student activism needs to be the driver,” and that “if the students don’t do anything, it’s not gonna happen.”
Some of the student body is conflicted about whether they prefer or want to terminate UMass’ contract with Coca-Cola.
Sophomore Paige Diffendale said she advocated for discontinuing UMass’ contract with Coca-Cola, saying “we want to be a green, sustainable campus.”
Freshman Meg Bresnahan disagrees.
“A lot of organizations rely on that funding,” Bresnahan said of the contract between UMass and Coca-Cola, adding that what she thought should happen is to “make people more aware of the effects of plastic” on the environment in hopes that students will make more of an effort to recycle, which would “at least help a little bit.”
Senior Phil Taberner is undecided on the matter, saying that it’s “a tough question because we’re already an underfunded university so … there’s obviously two sides to the coin.”
This initiative by other schools is a response to the rise in sales of plastic water bottles in the past couple decades. According to a report made by USA Today, between 1990 and 2007 the sale of water bottles, which requires around 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to produce, has quadrupled. The number of empty bottles that end up in landfills has more than tripled from 1995 to 2005.
Anna Jolliffe can be reached at [email protected]