Bottled water on sale Monday, May 7, 2012 at the Southside Market in a Loyola… (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune )
Loyola University is saying bye bye to bottled water. After a year-long campaign titled "UnCap Loyola," students voted March 28 to prevent sales of the bottles on campus starting in the fall.
But advocates of the ban say it's about more than reducing plastic waste.
"This isn't just about sustainability, this is also about social justice," said Alexandra Vecchio, president of the Student Environmental Association.
"We're not trying to limit our access to water," Vecchio added. "If anything, we're trying to ensure that everyone around the world has access to clean and fresh drinking water."
The ban will begin with bottled water, originally provided by Aramark, disappearing from the school's cafeterias next semester. Then, come spring, the beverage will no longer be available from vending machines.
The bottled water ban initiative became a joint effort between student government, the Student Environmental Association and even some school administrators last spring.
Student body president, Julia Poirier, another proponent of the ban, said access to water should be a fundamental human right and not a commodity.
Not everyone agrees with getting rid of bottled water, however.
On the day the vote passed, Student Senator Dominic Lynch argued that students' consumer rights would be limited by the ban.
"Loyola's campus is part of the very same earth that victims of water privatization live on. Those victims have a right to water, I'm not denying that. But we, too, have a right and that right is the right to choose what water we want. We do not lose that right when we step on Loyola's campus. The ban on bottled water ignores those facts," Lynch wrote in an editorial for the school paper.
But administrator Rob Kelly, vice president for student development, said that's not the case. He said the school has already started installing refill stations, where students can easily fill reusable containers with free water.
"We are located on the North Side of Chicago," he said. "If students want to get bottled water there's a place they can go to off campus, but we want to educate them about what does that mean."
Kelly said students can still bring their own bottled water to school, but no longer selling the product is a way for the Loyola to make a statement against privatizing water.
Meanwhile, other Chicago colleges have started similar practices. For example, Columbia College Chicago recently began installing refill stations to its existing water fountains.
She added that about 90 schools across the country have either banned or reduced the sale of bottled water on their campuses.
"I feel like we are leading the charge on the issue in Chicago," Proirier said. "I know a lot of schools have reached out to us because they're interested in the movement."
Brandon Campbell is a RedEye special contributor