This line from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” sums up many people’s reaction to President Destler’s announcement that departments and campus groups will no longer be permitted to spend University dollars on single serving bottles of water. “No bottled water?” you may exclaim. “I dont want any of that tap junk!” Well, hold on. RIT’s decision to phase out bottled water was intelligent for many reasons. Even if you disregard the environmental impact of huge amounts of plastic bottles, the change will benefit students on a personal level. Tap water tastes the same as (if not better than) bottled water, is cheaper for everyone involved and will eliminate hassle.
First, to dispel a concern: if tap water is, for whatever reason, not available, President Destler has stated that exceptions have been written into the policy, as there may be times when there are no other options. So you don’t have to worry about water being unavailable. If you’re one of those people who must carry a bottle of water around, you can always buy a water bottle.
Okay, great. But still, we have to drink water that tastes terrible. Or do we? Sheena Iyengar, who wrote “The Art of Choosing”, notes that, “On an episode of “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!,” they ran a blind taste test on the streets of New York City. They found that 75 percent of people preferred the taste of tap water to Evian (a very expensive mineral water).” A similar experiment was performed at Boston University, with comparable results. According to Leslie Friday in her report for BU Today, “Of 67 taste-testers, only a third identified the tap water sample correctly ... another third thought it was bottled water, and the remaining participants couldn’t tell the difference.” So beyond a possible placebo effect, the tap water will taste fine.
So if it tastes the same (at the very least) then why not let us choose what water to drink? There’s one simple reason: It’s more expensive to provide bottled water.
Let’s assume for a moment that one bottle of water cost the same as an equivalent amount of tap water. Bottled water would still be more expensive due to a five cent bottle recycling charge placed on the student. The only way to reclaim this charge is to go to the On-Campus Bottle Return, which is located in the tunnels next to the Sol Heumann (SOL, 047) laundry room. While that is a nice service to have, it’s at an odd location with short hours that aren’t really student friendly. It forces students to keep bottles in their small dorm rooms until the center finally opens. For those in the apartments, enjoy the walk! The students have to make a trade-off. Recycle from their rooms and lose five cents per bottle, or deal with the hassle.
Phasing out bottled water will save money for both RIT and the students. Eliminating bottles from the recycling system will likewise eliminate hassle from student life. And all of this will be done without sacrificing quality. Given these facts, the wisdom of this decision is apparent. Getting rid of bottled water will be better for all parties involved. And if for whatever reason you absolutely cannot live without bottled water, well hey, Wegman’s is just down the road.