Bottled Water: Destructive Practices

Last semester, I was a student in the UIC Freshwater Lab, a class which encompasses ideas of water access, quality of water, and social justice issues. We were required to participate in final project showcase where we picked a topic relating to fresh water and created a lasting and impactful project. My colleague and I applied for the UIC Sustainability Grant and received an award of $1000 for a project related to water bottle waste. We used this fee to collect used plastic bottles and create an interactive piece which was publicly displayed on campus. Through the process, we learned just how many bottles were recycled and/or thrown away on campus. In the course of three days, we found over four hundred bottles, just on east campus alone. Most bottles were recycled, but nevertheless we were still surprised how many people still used disposable bottles, even the information surrounding water safety in Chicago. The water bottle industry is a destructive one, and it affects Chicagoans much more than most realize. Maude Barlow explains, “Bottled-companies establish plants on specific streams, rivers, and aquifers ad then mine them mercilessly. They create mountains of plastic garbage, emit an enormous quantity of greenhouse gases in their production, and use huge amounts of energy shipping these bottles across the world” (Barlow 97). While I understand that this is not the largest problem plaguing the city or this campus, I think creating some kind of initiative discouraging the use of water bottles will open the eyes of students to other issues to capital greed and its effect on our environment, city, and world. I know that there are some states which have a recycling refund, where people can bring cans and certain kinds of bottles; I’m curious if UIC could fund a small research team to go out and find all of the filtration systems (I talked with the sustainability office last semester and they have no comprehensive list or map) and put up signs dispelling myths surrounding tap water (using facts from credible authors). I understand that people have fears and doubts about the safety of tap water (something I would like to explore more), and although I understand that it is safe to drink, I am empathetic to their fears-especially when water from the tap or fountain sometimes comes out cloudy. So if students were provided with a reusable bottle and a list/map of all the fountains that have a filtration system, maybe they would use less. I do not think it would cost very much. Funding a research team would only cost maybe $200 ($10 per/hour for 2 people). Add on another $500 for signage and I think this would be a very effective project and one that would also last a long time.


Barlow, Maude. Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever. New York: New, 2014. Print.

Truman, Jackie. “Nestle: Spring Water from the Great Lakes.” Green Lifestyles. N.p., 16 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

















Barlow, Maude. Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever. New York: New, 2014. Print.



One thought on “Bottled Water: Destructive Practices

  1. Thank you for reminding us of how insidious water bottles can be in our ecosystem. If you’re interested, check out these performers and how their entire costumes at one point consisted of water bottles (starts at 11:50)…

    “Through the creation of ritualistic tableaus and a cast of characters that range from Aztec deities of water Tláloc and Chalchiuhtlicue to such contemporary figures as El Merolico (Mexican street vendor) and Shaman Woman, Luna and Navarrete draw on the poetry and power of pre–Columbian myths to illustrate the importance of water to human survival and the sacred place it holds in our collective consciousness.”


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