On Sunday evening, the Pitzer College Student Senate voted unanimously to ban bottled water on its campus. In its official statement, the Senate affirmed:

“The Pitzer College Student Senate recommends that the College take the necessary steps to discontinue the purchase, sale and distribution of bottled water on campus and at College sanctioned events, including vending machines and campus cafes and eateries… the Pitzer College Student Senate recommends that the College provides reusable water vessels for all members of the Pitzer community, including staff and faculty members.”

The document does not articulate what Pitzer College’s current bottled water consumption is, nor does it identify the impact of such a ban. While the Senate presented a myriad of reasons for its rejection of bottled water, its primary concern involved the environmental impacts of bottled water. “Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, yet the recycled rate for plastic in the United States is only 23%, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year,” the Pitzer Senate argued. “Public tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires multiple daily tests for bacteria and releases this information to the public, while the Food and Drug Administration, who regulate bottled water, only requires weekly testing and does not share its findings with the general public (National Resource Defense Council).”

Pitzer College reasoned that a college-wide ban on water bottles would reduce the American footprint on the environment and increase the quality of the consumed water. However, when the University of Vermont enacted a similar ban in 2013, students still bought water bottles online and had them shipped to campus, creating an even greater environmental footprint than before the ban. Furthermore, student consumption of unhealthy sugary drinks increased by 25% as students sought alternatives to bottled water. When debating this policy, the Pitzer College Senate did not identify the economic and environmental costs of such a ban.

Many other schools, including the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, and Brown University have banned bottled water for similar concerns. When Harvard was debating banning bottled water, one student wrote in the Harvard Crimson a defense of keeping plastic water bottles legal, arguing that a better solution would be to raise the prices on plastic water bottles, creating an incentive to use eco-friendly materials without coercion. The argument proceeds, that “the University could then use some of the tax revenues to supplement employee pay to ensure that the tax does not result in lower salaries for student-employees.” In this context, Pitzer’s ban on water bottles could hurt the dining hall workers’ salaries or increase student fees due to lost economic revenue.

Over this past Academic Year, the Pitzer Senate has repeatedly curtailed liberties within the college in the name of social justice. Last fall, the Senate voted to forbid students from forming a yacht club because it deemed the word “yacht” to be “offensive” and “classist.” Shortly thereafter, the Senate refused funding to a proposed Pitzer College branch of the DreamCatchers Foundation, a charity that works with terminally ill hospice patients. The Senate reasoned that though the founders and current owners of the DreamCatchers Foundation were Native Americans themselves, the organization was deemed “cultural appropriation.” Pitzer College’s self-proclaimed mission, “environmental sustainability [and] social responsibility” has now manifested itself through this ban.

The ban on bottled water comes to Pitzer even though bottled water is safer than tap water in the event of a natural disaster. As the Claremont Colleges are located near the San Andreas fault, it is wise to take the threat of earthquakes seriously. Moreover, the ban on bottled water is not accompanied by bans on other eco-unfriendly materials, such as aluminum soda cans, or non-fair trade chocolate and coffee. The Pitzer Senate articulated that “producing single use disposable bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually” without identifying the impact of alternatives. The Pitzer Senate mandated that Pitzer College “install more hydration stations” and “provide reusable water bottles for all members of the Pitzer Community, including staff and faculty”, but did not articulate the funding source for such endeavors.



Image Source: Flickr

Categories: Campus News
  • An educated reader

    “In this context, Pitzer’s ban on water bottles could hurt the dining hall workers’ salaries or increase student fees due to lost economic revenue.”…? Talk about arguments based not on evidence but on assumptions. This article commits the very logical fallacy it seeks to refute, and thus should not be taken seriously by any educated reader.

    • Another educated reader

      What about the sentence immediately before that explained the sentence you refer to?

  • Shoahshana Goldberg-Shekelstein

    Oy vey! This article is like anudda shoah!

    Let me guess, you’re a white cis male? When are you going to stop oppressing womyn? When are you going to stop oppressing people of color? Claremont is a safe space for underprivileged and oppressed minorities. I suggest that you take your ignorant, bigoted white hetero-patriarchal racism/sexism and find a KKK or Trump rally to attend.

    • K


    • Lindsey Burkart-Lima


      This person’s gender and race should not be mentioned as an attack against them just because they are voicing an opinion dissimilar to your own. How does Daniel’s opinions about Pitzer banning bottled water even remotely relate to oppressing womyn? How can you be so aggressive as to assert that he is part of the KKK?? That’s not a statement to throw around lightly. Talk about the 5C’s adopting a position on the political spectrum that espouses liberal closed-mindedness!
      Bottled water does not relate to oppressed minorities.

      Can we, as a unified Claremont campus, work towards encouraging *brave* space, listening to one another’s opinions, and then *maturely* discussing the validity of expressed beliefs? If you are angry at the bigotry in this country, rise of authoritarianism, and “ignorant, bigoted white hetero-patriarchal racism/sexism,” then I suggest that you practice bridging the obvious and growing divide in this country, aka bi-partisanship, and listen without immediately writing others off.

      I serve on Pitzer College’s Student Senate and actually agree with some of the arguments made in this article. The value of bottled water on campus in the case of an emergency is an extremely valid point. We live in an earthquake zone — that’s absolutely a legitimate concern. I will have to politely disagree with “the most educated reader,” during times of disaster, supermarkets often run out of valuable supplies that are in high demand and access to water is not a safe assumption to make. If anything, a natural disaster is the only circumstance in which I can imagine bottled water being appropriate.

      Although I disagree with the article’s transition in the second half to the subject of the Yacht Club and “liberties,” a high tax on bottled water is an excellent alternative policy approach that may not have as many adverse consequences as highlighted by the author of this article.

      • lol lol

        fairly sure that comment was trolling aka trying 2 make fun of claremont

  • The most educated reader

    While I agree that Pitzer shouldn’t ban bottled water, it is not at all for the reasons stated here. The idea that Pitzer’s ban on bottled water would remain instated in the event of a natural disaster is idiotic–of course they would bring in bottled water if it was necessary.

    What should be done is place a tax on all drinks sold in plastic or aluminum bottles, so that it will include all bottled water and sodas, and use this money to pay for installation of hydration stations, decreasing the price of reusable water bottles, and perhaps other waste-reducing measures.

  • PZ Student

    Aren’t there members of The Claremont Independent on the Pitzer College Student Senate? That means they voted in favor of this too…

  • A Pissed Off Kid

    This is an incredibly stupid article, your arguments are invalid and frankly hold no evidence. You use anecdotal evidence and ad hominem attacks and still call your self a reputable newspaper. Do you even understand how little money goes back to Pitzer from the selling of plastic water bottles. Why don’t you spend more time researching actual evidence instead of just arguing for the sake of arguing and being an overall negative presence on the 5Cs.

    • Taylor Novick-Finder

      I have difficulty understanding why the CI never actually requests comment from those who are calling for the changes they complain about. As the lead author of this legislation, I find it to be my duty to clarify a few misunderstandings eluded to in this article – the Pitzer College vending machines sell approximately 1000 bottles of water annually at $1.65 each. Since almost 50% of profit returns to PZ, that generates around $825 per year in Aquafina sales. Up until this year, these funds went directly to kegs for Pitzer parties, but they now benefit Substance-Free programming. Since this amount is substantially less than the budget of many clubs (and less than functions senate holds itself), and considering the fact that its a new source of funding for sub free programming (and therefore supplementing a pre existing budget), the mindset of those authoring the Resolution was that the minimal returns from bottled water could be generated from another source. Additionally, we believe it’s crucial that the College invest in water filtration infrastructure in all parts of our campus – not only the academic buildings where administrators’ offices are, but in our dorms as well. That’s why this Resolution called for a Bill that will be presented at our next meeting, which hopes to transfer funds to install ‘hydration stations’ in each tower of Mead Hall, which currently has no such infrastructure. Lastly, in the case of a natural disaster, such as a big earthquake that compromises our water infrastructure, I don’t believe the couple hundred bottles of water held in the few vending machines on Pitzer’s campus will last very long, considering there would MAYBE be enough for 1/3rd of a bottle per student. I would recommend that instead of bashing the progress being made by our Senate to lead tangible change in our community, the CI should instead focus on getting the facts from those pushing for this change and not from however you generate your assertions over our legislative practice. Indeed, water is tremendously important and in the case of a “natural disaster”, we need all the careful planning possible – however one must consider the environmental toll of drilling petroleum to produce plastic bottles and transport them thousands of miles in trucks weighing thousands of pounds potentially fueled by natural gas, hydraulically fracked from the surface of our earth (leading to the devastating earthquakes this article alludes to), and then filled with municipal water (as is the case with Pepsi-Co Aquafina) and treated with unregulated chemicals, and then once again trucked again thousands of miles to our vending machines for convenience and “safety”. If Pitzer is a College that prides itself on the motto Provida Futuri, or “mindful of the future”, how can we honestly say that we are being mindful of a safe and equitable future if we conduct ourselves in oxymoronic and irresponsible ways? I understand at the end of the day this blog, or conservative diary, or whatever the Claremont Independent is, needs me and my progressive colleagues in the Pitzer Student Senate as your scapegoats of bashful, hateful ‘journalism’ but I feel it’s my responsibility to inform you that you aren’t actually ‘always right’ – as you claim to be.

      • Samuel Breslow

        Thanks for the clarification, Taylor. Could you also address the argument made in the article that the ban will lead to students ordering more bottled water online and consuming more sugary beverages?

  • A Neanderthal

    This is clear evidence why faculty advisors are required . . . They say things like: do you really want to sound so trite and pedantic?

    The ban on bottled water is about plastic. Evil plastic. Yes. After a large eq bottled water will be needed short term.

    But. You know what I do? I have refillable plastic bottle. With a straw. That I can put ice in. And drink cold water. Over. And. Over. And. Over. Again. Wheeeeeeee

    • A Neanderthal

      And. It’s BPA and Alar free. Whoo hoooo