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Vassar College bans bottled water from campus dining services

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Albany/HV: Vassar College bans bottled water from campus dining services
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Vassar College's dining services no longer sell bottled water after a student-led environmental group, called Vassar Greens, campaigned against it. YNN's John Wagner has more.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Living in a country with some of the safest tap water in the world, Vassar College students say the consequences of bottling water are worth a second look.

Oil and chemicals burn to create and transport the plastic. Companies sell access to clean water, something the UN calls a human right. The literal cost, they say, is enormous as well.

"If you're buying bottled water at $1 per bottle, that's going to be about the price of gasoline," said "Tap That" campaign Co-Coordinator, Adam Brunell.

"You see a water bottle and it's just so common, but you don't see what goes on behind that," said Ashley Powell, another co-coordinator and Vassar Greens member.

Bottled water consumption in America is booming. Tripling since 1990 and nearly doubling within the past ten years. And with more than seventy percent of the bottles headed straight to the dump, Vassar students say educating drinkers is crucial.

"When it's so easy to just have your own re-usable container, yes you have to wash it, but are we really that lazy that we're going to trash our planet for just a small, minor convenience," asked Eliza Gercke, who came up with the idea behind Tap That, two years ago.

The student government voted unanimously this spring to ban sales in all cafeterias. As a result of efforts from the Tap That campaign, the campus will boost its number of water filling stations, and all incoming freshman received re-usable steel bottles to start the year.

"There's kind of this myth that bottled water is healthier for you," said Powell. "Forty percent of bottled water is actually tap water anyway."

To build on their momentum, Vassar Greens is trying to persuade academic departments to drink from the tap rather than gulping from five gallon water coolers. The group's future goals include banning water from vending machines as well as at off-campus events, and to work with other local colleges like Marist to do the same.

Tap That coordinators say students were hesitant at first about restricting beverage options, but the measures have been mostly well received.

"Just as we don't sell alcohol or cigarettes on campus, it's the school's choice what it provides to students," said Gercke.

"I think the main difference between buying a bottle of Coca-Cola and buying a bottle of water," continued Brunell, "is one you can get for free delivered directly to your faucet."

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