Western to end sale of bottled water on campus

Western Washington University will end the sale and distribution of bottled water on campus on April 1, an effort initiated by students to enhance sustainability at Western.

Western now is the largest college or university, public or private, in the state of Washington to end the sale of bottled water on its campus.

"Bottled water and water privatization is detrimental to the environment, to human rights to water and simply doesn't make sense in a region where we have clean, amazing tap water,” said Carolyn Bowie, a member of Students for Sustainable Water at Western. “When WWU implements this change, we will proudly support our local water source, Lake Whatcom, and be a leader in standing up against water privatization in the United States and around the world.​ This change is important because it means upholding Western's values in sustainability and social justice.”

The elimination of the sale of bottled water on campus followed a student initiative in spring 2012 that found “selling of bottled water to be an unsustainable practice” and urged the university to discontinue sales and distribution of bottled water on campus. The advisory initiative was approved by 73 percent of students who voted for or against the measure.

Following the student initiative, a task force of students, faculty and university staff met to implement the elimination of bottled water sales at Western.

Implementation efforts included ways to offset lost revenue from the sale of bottled water – roughly 10 percent of all cold beverage sales on campus. Also, this will only affect bottled water without flavor, carbonation or other additives.

“It was very satisfying to work with students who are not only passionate about sustainability, but also committed to involvement in ways consistent with Western’s values, and who honor, above all, the spirit of collaboration, education of the community about sustainable practices and respect for individual choice,” said Leonard Jones, Western’s director of University Residences, who was actively involved with the project.

Western students have a history of visionary leadership. In 2004, a student initiative passed with an overwhelming majority, allowing Western to become the first university in the nation to implement a student fee for the purchase of renewable energy. As a result of their visionary efforts and significant research into renewable energy, Western moved to the forefront of the renewable energy field, becoming the first university in the country to implement a student fee for the purchase of green energy. The student fee went into effect in 2005 and allows the university to offset all of its electricity use with purchases from renewable energy sources.

The Green Energy Fee, through its grant program, also funds other sustainability efforts on Western’s campus, including several water bottle refilling stations on campus.

And Western has many other examples of innovation, including its student-run recycling program, begun in 1971, and creation of Huxley College of the Environment more than 40 years ago.

“The implementation of the bottled water free initiative marks yet another strong movement led by students and supported by Western’s campus community,” Bowie said. “With this change Western has again illustrated its commitment to effectiveness, innovation, sustainability and diversity.”

For more resources and a history of the bottled water free campaign at Western, please visit the Bottled Water Free Initiative​ web page on Western's Sustainability website.