COLUMN: ‘Take Back the Tap’ takes away our autonomy

“Take Back the Tap” is getting slightly closer to vanquishing bottled water from our campus vending machines and convenience stores.

The group’s Facebook page calls bottled water a “waste of money” and points to environmental hazards caused by the production and disposal of plastic water bottles. So, in order to save the planet, TBTT wants everyone to drink tap water.

If the group’s agenda stopped here, I’d offer my wholehearted support. Paying for water is a pretty odd idea when it’s freely available, and I also don’t want my grandchildren to be buried alive by an avalanche of plastic bottles.

But I can’t support TBTT’s mission to unilaterally ban the sale of bottled water on campus.

Like most adults in our capitalist society, I don’t enjoy being told what I can and can’t purchase. Banning the sale of any product presupposes that I’m not responsible enough to comprehend the ramifications of buying it. “Jeremy’s apparently not trustworthy enough to recycle, so we better make sure he can’t buy non-refundable plastic bottles.”

Besides being insulting to my intelligence, a ban of bottled water sales has very little practicality.

If a student enjoys bottled water, a campus-wide ban will not dissuade him or her from purchasing it from off-campus retailers, and I don’t think any organization will have much luck convincing Meijer and Walmart to stop selling bottled water.

The group’s choice of focusing purely on bottled water leaves me mystified. Gatorade is made of mostly purified water and is sold in non-refundable plastic containers, but the group does not address this issue on any of its websites, unless Gatorade is a future crusade.

Also, the group gives beverages in refundable bottles a free pass. The manufacture of Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottles would seem to have the same environmental impact as water bottles, but perhaps the group figures people are more likely to recycle them. This reasoning is hard to justify, though, since Central Michigan University offers conveniently placed recycling receptacles, allowing students to discard non-refundable bottles without hassle.

TBTT is based upon good intentions. However, its current agenda is much too aggressive to win widespread support. Members of the Student Government Association House and Senate might be supportive of TBTT, but students who are uninvolved in campus politics are forced to sit and watch the process unfold.

Instead of being a paternalistic special interest group, I wish TBTT would have enough confidence in its message to respect individual autonomy. If the group pushes through its agenda, it will only succeed in eliminating the environmental impact of non-recycled water bottles sold within the confines of CMU.

The group’s overall message will be lost in the mutterings of students who will walk to 7-Eleven to buy bottled water.


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