Disposable plastic water bottles are probably the stupidest product ever to give birth to a multi-billion dollar industry. The idea — expending enormous energy to enclose the same fluid coming out of your sink in petroleum products just to ship it across states or countries and sell it for hundreds of times the price of tap water — has never made much sense to me.
Now that I have gotten that disclaimer off my chest, I can admit there are situations for which it is prudent to have individually packaged, mobile units of water on hand. For example, 6,000 free water bottles were given out to students living in the residence halls and emergency personnel at San Diego State during the boil water advisory, following September’s power outage. Water bottles are also handy for athletics and special events. San Diego State’s own Aztec Water brand has been used for all these purposes.
The university’s signature water brand seems to be the most popular on campus, but few of us have stopped to wonder where that water comes from.
According to the Director of SDSU Dining Services, Paul Melchior, Aztec Water was born about 10 years ago for the purpose of enhancing school pride and as a less expensive campus alternative to Pepsi’s bottled tap water brand, Aquafina. And being distributed by nonprofit Aztec Shops, all surplus revenue from bottle sales is redirected back to the university.
In addition to its value as an emergency water source, the university’s label is probably the most energy-efficient plastic water bottle producer I know of. Aztec Water is collected locally at Palomar Mountain by Moceri Food and Beverage Inc. and then trucked to Commerce, near Los Angeles, for bottling. The spring water is treated with UV rays and ozone techniques. Chameleon Beverage Co., which handles the packaging, recently began using 100 percent recycled plastic, at the request of SDSU Dining Services.
Aztec Water’s sourcing, transportation and bottling practices make it by far the most environmentally friendly brand, if plastic bottles are the only option. Big brands such as Dasani, Aquafina and Fiji are incredibly inefficient and environmentally destructive by comparison. These factors aside, I think the pride of having our own brand, not to mention the price difference, makes Aztec Water the most popular brand at SDSU.
So if you insist on buying water bottles on campus, Aztec Water is definitely the way to go. And at the very least, you can reuse or recycle the bottle after you’re finished. However, with so many places to fill up reusable bottles, it makes more sense to buy a refillable bottle at the SDSU Bookstore. Our campus is full of water fountains, and students are encouraged to fill up at any Dining Services restaurant using the soda fountain machines or at the water spigots in the Aztec Markets.
The hydration options are also set to expand with upcoming projects. The new cutting-edge Aztec Student Union will include filtered bottle-filling machines. And the planned renovations to the University Towers dining facility will include more fountains.
Increased visibility of water-filling stations, as well as more convenient recycling bin locations, would help increase the sustainability of the campus water landscape while these projects are underway. It’s easy not to think about everything that goes into bringing your water to you, but a little planning and effort from students can help SDSU keep its place on the cutting edge of waste reduction and intelligent campus consumption.