This paper aimed to examine the impact of the removal of bottled water on the campus community. This paper presents the findings of a survey conducted at the first Australian university to remove single-use bottled water from sale on a small regional university campus. The removal of bottled water from sale at the university formed part of the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
The study was conducted substantially by undergraduate students who participated in an action learning project in which they assisted in the design, implementation and analysis of an online snapshot survey made available to all staff and students of the university.
The results indicated some evidence of changes to pro-environmental behaviors such as increased use of re-fillable bottles, but there were less desirable outcomes such as drinking less water. Community perceptions were dramatically polarized. Restrictions on freedom of choice, concerns about health as a result of increased use of high-sugar drinks and the continued availability of other plastic drink bottles were provided as strong objections to the removal of bottled water from sale on campus.
The study provides useful insights for university sustainability planners and administrators about the complex range of issues associated with the implementation of sustainability initiatives on a university campus.
While extensive literature exists about the environmental impacts of bottled water, few studies have explored the impacts or community responses to the removal of bottled water in the university context.
The authors acknowledge the assistance of 18 students from the unit of study, Methods of Inquiry in Community Education in 2011, in the design and conduct of the study at the University of Canberra in 2011; to Beth Mitchell, University of Canberra Sustainability Planner, who supported the research within the university; and to Dr Joanna Henryks and Dr Bethany Turner for sharing their parallel work on bottled water sales. The study did not receive any funding.
Mikhailovich, K. and Fitzgerald, R. (2014), "Community responses to the removal of bottled water on a university campus", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 330-342. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2012-0076Download as .RIS
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