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Washingon & Lee stops sale of bottled water

Refillable Bottles
RadioIQ
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Washington and Lee is giving new students a refillable water bottle

Washington and Lee is a small university with just over 2,200 students, but last year they bought more than 11,000 bottles of water. Of course those containers could be recycled, but the market for used material is unreliable, and plastic bottles pose other problems.

“There are also a lot of emissions associated with creating plastic bottles in the first place, and a lot of energy associated with transporting them,” says the school’s director of sustainability, Jane Stewart. To address those concerns, she adds, W&L took a good look around.

“Every venue where bottled water had previously been sold, there was a bottle-filling station. In all of these places we have compostable cups, so you can take your cup and you can fill it as many times as you want, and when you’re done with it you put it in the compost, and we take it out to the campus garden where it breaks down.”

To jump start this new program, every new student on campus gets a refillable bottle made from stainless steel with a retail value of about forty-five bucks. “We’re happy to make that investment," Stewart says.

K.C. Schaefer, who oversees the school store, says students are delighted. “They come in here anyway to buy their text books, to make a really big purchase, but they were excited to have that free item.”

Stewart adds that the bottle ban inspires pride for students, faculty and staff.

"I think it makes them feel good that the university is taking these sort of small, common sense steps to address the big issues that we say we care about."

And frankly, she says, this move will benefit campus consumers who no longer need to spend money for something that’s now available at no charge.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief