More than 90 schools across the United States, including Brown and Harvard universities, are banning or restricting the use of plastic water bottles, much to the dismay of the $22-billion bottled water industry.
You may remember our post from a few weeks ago about the International Bottled Water Association’s video response to the student campaign, where the industry openly mocked college kids for taking a stand against its product. The industry attempted to stress the health benefits of bottled water compared to other bottled beverages, or even tap water. What the industry is clearly failing to realize is that it’s taking a natural resource that is readily available on any college campus to fill up in a reusable bottle, packaging it up in plastic, and selling it under the pretense that is healthier than other free water sources.
I know, plastic water bottle industry, it’s pretty groundbreaking news to hear that you can simply walk over to a drinking fountain and fill up a reusable water bottle. Some college campuses are now offering freshmen students stainless-steel, reuseable bottles in their welcome packs, encouraging them to fill up at hydration stations where they can access free filtered water.
If you’re wondering about bottled water sales on college campuses, the numbers are pretty staggering. Brown University would sell an average of 320,000 bottles of water a year in vending machines and stores, but ended sales in 2010.
Despite the tacky video put out by the International Bottled Water Association, it supposedly doesn’t see it as a big threat to the industry. More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States alone last year, and the industry is apparently growing at an average of 5.4% each year. What they should be worried about, however, is losing brand loyalty from the next generation.
If you think about it, college kids are a pretty large part of the target audience the bottled water industry wants to hit. They’re on the go, trekking across campus with books and bags. They also want to save money, and water is something plenty of students have at their desk during class. If the industry is starting to lose these young consumers, it’s a much bigger threat than they’re making it out to be.
The reason I stopped buying bottled water was because I was tired of paying $2 for it on campus when I could buy a $10 stainless steel bottle that keeps it cold and looks way prettier. I love that the bottled water industry wants us to think we basically need their version of water to live well, but I love even more that students at some of the most prominent universities in the country are doing something to tackle the problem.