InStyle magazine released an article in April 2015 entitled “Five water bottles so chic you’ll want to show them off,” which presented different brands of reusable water bottles encompassing everything from fruit infusers to bottles made especially “for the trend setter.” The article painted the environmentally friendly beverage containers as accessories to add to any outfit.
Flash forward to present day at UNH, and one will, most likely, see students walking around campus with reusable water bottles of every color, shape, size and brand. At any given moment in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Union Court, students can be spotted rocking Nalgenes plastered with cheeky stickers, sipping water from UNH Camelbaks or enjoying beverages out of S’well bottles in hues that match their backpacks.
According to multiple student accounts, reusable water bottles have suddenly become the must-have item on this campus, as some students have admitted to seeing people with them attached to their backpacks almost everywhere they look.
In fact, in a short informal survey conducted with UNH students, 13 of 15 student respondents said that they are using these water bottles on the daily.
So why has this trend popped up at UNH?
According to senior animal science major and Choose 2 Reuse Co-Coordinator Gianna Tempera, this newfound fad could be for multiple reasons, including the very student organization she is part of.
Under the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Choose 2 Reuse is a student organization dedicated to banning the use of single use plastic water bottles on campus.
“We are focusing, this year, on reducing demand,” Tempera said. “So, trying to get people to feel like there’s less of a need to use plastic water bottles.”
Created three and a half years ago, this organization has been making strides to make UNH a more sustainable institution by convincing students to jump on the reusable bottle band-wagon and take part in the new trend.
“[Administrators] have said that there has been a decrease in the sale of plastic water bottles,” Tempera said. “So we have seen a change and there are a lot of people who have come up to us who are very excited about it.”
Choose 2 Reuse puts forth good reasoning for ditching single use water bottles and picking up a reusable one instead, including the fact that tap water is actually more regulated and, therefore, healthier than bottled, and that only 16 percent of plastic bottles are recycled while the rest end up in landfills, as litter or within our ecosystems.
“I think a lot of people consider the environmental factor,” Tempera said. “[But], as college students, a lot of people will focus on the money.”
The UNH Sustainability Institute, which according to their website, works toward making UNH a sustainable institution through curriculum, operations, research and engagement, has been teaming up with Choose 2 Reuse by installing Hydration Stations in nearly all campus buildings. This allows easy access to free, filtered water for refillable bottles, which makes using these eco-friendly bottles easier than ever.
Are students really using these new bottles to be environmentally friendly though, or do they have other motivations? Sophomore nursing student Catherine Quimby said that she believes it is the latter.
“It’s just cheaper,” Quimby said in regard to her use of a reusable water bottle. “They have the hydration stations so I can just fill it up and not worry about buying a case of water.”
Out of the 13 students who said they use these trendy bottles, 10 said that their use was for economic reasons.
Some reusable water bottles initially may seem to be pricey (about $10 at the Newington Wal-Mart), compared to the $1.50 Dasani plastic bottle out of a vending machine on campus, but it is only a one-time purchase. This means that if a student purchased a plastic bottle every day for one week, it would equal about the same as buying a reusable bottle once and then filling it up at a Hydration Station for free every day.
In fact, according to a poster put out by Choose 2 Reuse, bottled water can cost a person anywhere from 240 to 10,000 times more than tap water would.
Tempera said that she believes this is only one of the reasons choosing a reusable water bottle is the best way to go.
“I think it stems back to how we are making a wasteful culture,” Tempera said. “In something so simple as water, there is no need for that waste… It bothers me that people are spending their money and making this huge amount of plastic waste when there is no need for it.”
Though economic factors contribute to these decisions, some students also admitted to using bottles due to the fact that they had seen others with bottles and thought they were trendy.
“It has become more common in the past couple years [to be environmentally friendly],” Tempera said. “I don’t know if it’s because we are becoming more aware…or if it’s just ‘My friends are being green and I should be too.’”
Quimby even said that, nowadays, it is starting to become trendy to be green in general.
“On the outer aspect everyone is like, ‘Yeah, the environment,’” Quimby said. “But really I don’t think as many people care.”
Sophomore nursing student John Domenico said that he used to use single use bottles, but changed his mind when his friends started nagging him about it.
“I think it’s starting to become more trendy [to be green],” Domenico said. “A lot of people use [reusable bottles] when you look around.”
Though reusable water bottles are better for the environment, according to Choose 2 Reuse, the data proves that most students on campus are actually using them for the other benefits they provide.
However, whether trendy, cheap or just an accessory, Tempera said she believes reusable water bottles are better for the environment either way.
“[We are] not thinking of the consequences of our actions,” Tempera said. “The water industry affects communities and takes away water from communities that need it…when, to the core, there is no need for it.”
So whether your water bottle is saving you money, completing your outfit or making you live a healthier lifestyle, this trend is taking UNH by storm anyway.