University to end sales of bottled water on campus

Beginning in January, faculty, students and staff on the Danforth, North and West campuses will no longer find bottled water in vending machines or campus eateries.

Because of concerns about the environmental impact of bottled water, the University is ending sales of the product, and administrative offices will no longer offer bottled water at events and meetings. Instead, faculty, staff, students and guests are encouraged to drink tap water and use reusable water containers.

“Plastic bottled water represents significant energy and waste issues,” said Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for sustainability. “It requires tremendous amounts of energy in production, packaging, transportation and recycling.

“National statistics show that the rate plastic bottles are recycled is low and getting lower, as more end up in landfills,” Malten said. “Members of the Washington University community all have access to healthy water from a tap, and drinking tap water eliminates the generation of solid waste and energy usage to produce bottled water.”

The tap water in St. Louis was rated as best in the country by the U.S. Mayor’s Conference in 2007.

Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration, has requested that the deans of each of the University’s schools stop offering bottled water at their school’s events.

Tap water is readily available on the Danforth, North and West campuses, said Liz Kramer, a fellow in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration. Nearly all buildings on campus feature multiple drinking fountains, and cold-water containers are located in Holmes Lounge and Whispers Cafe in Olin Library.

Kramer is in the process of mapping the locations of fountains on the Danforth Campus, and the map will be made public once completed.

Reducing the use of bottled water on campus is just one of many steps WUSTL is taking to reduce its impact on the environment. And it’s a step, said Deborah Howard, special assistant to the executive vice chancellor for administration, that the administration couldn’t implement without the support of others on campus — especially Washington University Dining Services and students, who led their own campaign to promote the use of tap water on campus.

In October, during Campus Sustainability Week, students hosted water taste tests to show that there’s little taste difference between bottled water and tap water. Students also sold reusable water bottles at the Danforth University Center.

WUSTL is the first university to ban the sale and use of bottled water in its administrative offices, dining services and vending machines, Kramer said. According to Kramer’s research, Johns Hopkins University stopped using bottled water in its president’s office last spring, and Brandeis University is considering adopting a ban on the sale of bottled water.

Even with the changes, faculty, staff and students still will be allowed to bring their own bottled water to campus.

“We hope faculty, staff and students will use reusable containers, but the University is not going to be the water bottle police,” Howard said.

For more information about tap and bottled water on campus, contact Howard at or 935-3883.