As I was waiting in line at the bookstore the other night I saw this:
Yes that’s right, U of T is banning the sale of bottled water in all retail outlets, food service outlets, and in all vending machines on campus (over a three-year period). The bottled water revolution (or was that a war?) is over, at least here at U of T. The U of T Water Initiative really seems like a step forward in providing environmentally friendly and free access to water, but I wonder how I’ll feel about it when I’m sprinting across Queen’s Park and realize that I’ve forgotten my water bottle at home.
Methinks we as a population are overhydrated. I can recall a time, not too long ago when purchasing water was absurd, equivalent to purchasing air. As some of you may know, I’m a vintage model. I was born before the bottled water revolution, into a world where hydration in the school place was facilitated with a water fountain. My grade school had one fountain for 150 children. My high school had four for 1800 students.
Yet I managed to get through 12 years of grade school and high school without a single disposable or reusable bottle. If we were thirsty we would wait until the end of class and then go wait in line for the fountain. It’s seems so archaic in this age of instant thirst gratification, but I can say that I never at any point came even remotely close to dying of dehydration at school.
I admit though, I too have become dependent on my water bottle. If and when I realize I’ve left my bottle at home, I have a sudden urge to find a source of water and drink as much as humanly possible to hold me over until I can find a place to buy a new bottle. My water bottle is my security blanket and it is this mad allegiance to constant hydration that has such huge implications in our lives and the environment. Yes disposable bottles are bad…we all know that, but there are also other unavoidable pitfalls to over-hydrating.
Case in point, I was at a lecture the other day where the room temperature was a stifling 27 degrees, and everyone I observed was generously indulging in their bottled water (both reusable and disposable). At the break I attempted to use the restroom and found a lineup out the door. This certain building I was in was built in 1967, before the bottled water revolution, and it shows. It was built in a time when one washroom containing two stalls was a sufficient facility for a building that saw hundreds of students at a single time.
The reality is this: we really can’t hold it anymore. If we’re not drinking water, we’re getting rid of it. Now, I’m not a scientist or a student of science for that matter, but I’m pretty sure that means we don’t need as much water as we’re drinking. This might be a radical theory, but I’m going to throw it out there. The problem isn’t the bottled water, it’s that we are drinking too much water. We are addicted to water or perhaps to possessing a water receptacle at all times.
I fully support this effort by the university, but I wish they had installed more of these new fountains before outlawing the sale of bottled water. I think we need to retrain our bodies to survive without water for at least a two-hour period. This ban on plastic water bottles will be a crash course on how not to over-hydrate. Maybe it will help us relearn how to live with out a constant portable supply of water. I’m going cold turkey tomorrow and leaving my bottle at home…I’ll let you know how it goes.
You can find a list of outlets that have banned disposable water bottle sales, as well as information on future and current locations of water fountains on campus here. Last Friday, the U of T Water Initiative held a great event in Willcocks Common, that was all about water … a last hurrah to excessive water consumption and a goodbye to our plastic bottles.
I have a feeling that bottled juice and soft drink sales on campus will soon reach record highs. Don’t these come in plastic bottles too? Food (er, drink) for thought. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.