AU’s Kicking the Bottle on Campus & in Congress

By Joshua Kaplan

Tuesday February 7th, Corporate Accountability International released a report revealing that the US House of Representatives spends nearly a million dollars annually on bottled water. The report, “Tapping Congress to Get Off the Bottle”, calls for Congress to stop spending taxpayer’s money on the privatization of an important public resource.

Thanks to our efforts to reduce bottled water consumption at AU, the Office of Sustainability was invited to take part in a news conference at the Capitol announcing the report’s release. Green Eagles administered a “Tap Water Challenge” to attendees challenging them to correctly identify tap water among popular brands of bottled water. No one succeeded.

Green Eagle Cole Mellino administers the “Tap Water Challenge” to Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams

Speakers included Mayor of Takoma Park Bruce Williams, Director of DC Water George Hawkins, and DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Representative Norton captured the spirit of the event when she proclaimed that the mark of a truly developed nation was not automobiles or consumer electronics, but the ability to provide clean, public drinking water to all of its citizens. Director Hawkins built on that, emphatically stating that clean drinking water is the basis for every action undertaken to drive our economy.

As Congress desperately looks for ways to cut spending and reduce our deficit, eliminating bottled water from its offices is the best place to start. Clean, safe tap water – which our government provides as a public resource and a basic human right – is more than one thousand times cheaper than water in a single-use bottle. By purchasing bottled water, the House of Representatives sends the message to the American people that they care little for the environment, put the interests of private corporations ahead of the public, and don’t trust our infrastructure.

To help send this critical message, AU senior, green wonk, and Office of Sustainability intern Josh Kaplan joined CAI’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign in delivering over 60,000 signed petitions to Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office.

Josh Kaplan delivers petitions to Speaker Boehner’s office

It is our hope that Speaker Boehner, as well as the rest of Congress, heeds the call to renew investments in our nation’s public water systems and cut spending on an unnecessary and environmentally damaging extravagance. We are practicing what we preach by investing in our campus infrastructure as well. Throughout the spring semester, look for over a hundred water bottle filling spigots like the one below to appear on water fountains throughout campus. They can already be found in Bender Arena, the Ward Circle Building lobby, and Bender Library.

Water bottle filling spigot in the Ward Circle Building lobby

Over the next few months we will be ramping up our on-campus efforts to educate the AU community about the benefits and safety of tap water, and make it just as easy and convenient to access as the nearest single-use plastic bottle. We’ve been calling this the “Kick the Bottle” campaign in the office, but if you’re a creative type and can think of anything catchier, please share your ideas with us using the comment function or email sustainability@american.edu. Until next time, grab your nearest reusable water bottle, write a letter to your Congressional representative asking them to Kick the Bottle as well, and join us in greening the American dream.