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BSU students vote to ban water bottle sales

BEMIDJI - The student government at Bemidji State University on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill to ban the sale of plastic water bottles.

The BSU Student Senate voted to become the first college in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. Two non- MnSCU campuses in Minnesota -- Macalester and the College of Saint Benedict -- have already done so.

Sens. Alex Miller and Seth Hofland, both seniors, put forward the bill with the aim of fostering environmental sustainability and access to free water rather than commercial water.

"The production and distribution of bottled water is an unsustainable industry," the bill read. "Bemidji State University should not invest in the bottled water industry's attempt to deny the basic human right to have access to clean drinking water."

The bill would ban the sale of bottled water on campus, with the exception of Chet Anderson Stadium, effective fall 2016.

BSU already offers cost-free non-disposable water bottles via its "Free Store," and has water fountains designed for filling bottles throughout campus.

Former student Sen. Dan Rekuski voiced his opposition to the bill, saying it would infringe on personal liberty by imposing the senators' environmental beliefs on others.

"I think of this a lot more as a freedom issue, or a choice issue, than ... an environmental sustainability issue," he said. "If you want to be environmentalists and conserve water... you be you, that's totally fine. But ... to vote in Student Senate and force that opinion on people like me and other students, I think, is totally wrong."

Miller said the bill bans only the sale of bottle water on campus, not possession of bottled water.

BSU's Environmental Advisory Committee wrote a memo to the Senate on Feb. 2 in support of the bill.

BSU Director of Communications and Marketing Scott Faust said Wednesday while the BSU administration must also approve the Senate bill before the sale of water is actually banned, the unanimous vote would be a strong incentive for support.