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Bottled water has become so deeply entrenched in our society that some people can’t even imagine how to provide water at an event without it.  Say what?  Maybe I’m going to show my age here, but I actually remember living a good hydrated life, attending events, and even hosting events before anyone had thought of putting tap water in a disposable plastic bottle and charging 1000 times more for it!    Based on my experience BBW (before bottled water), I have come up with some ABCs for getting by without bottled water at your school with ease:  

water cooler

Access to tap water 

Provide access to drinking water throughout the school by maintaining water fountains and cleaning them daily.  Better yet, upgrade to bottle-less water coolers in the cafeteria and in hallways and install a water filter on the tap in the teachers’ lounge.  Offering chilled filtered tap water will allay concerns about the spreading of germs at the water fountains, taste of tap water, and water quality. 

Custom water bottles

Bottles that are reusable 

Request that students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the school bring their own reusable bottles or mugs to school each day and to all special events. Consider having a reusable bottle fundraiser or simply issuing school water bottles to every student.  Custom stainless steel water bottles with the school logo are a big hit with students.  Monies raised can be used to fund water coolers! 

Containers for serving 

Pitchers filled from the faucet or from water coolers can be used to serve tap water to students in their class rooms.  Large portable coolers filled with the help of a pitcher can be used to dispense tap water at large gatherings.  For those who forget their reusable bottles, it is important to have some biodegradable disposable cups on hand and a recycling bin to collect them. 


Portable cooler

Bottle free bliss

All in all, becoming a bottle free school is not as daunting as it sounds.  Life was good BBW!  Putting the ABCs in place is easier and cheaper than you’d expect.  The key to getting cooperation from the entire community will be establishing and communicating a school-wide bottled water policy and letting everyone know you’ve got the ABCs covered.

You’ll be glad you did because eliminating bottled water at your school will simplify planning and clean up for events, reduce the volume of waste, save parents money, model a sustainable lifestyle for students, as well as reap significant environmental benefits for everyone. 

This week I got an email asking parents to donate food and bottled water for the high school marching band tailgate party at the state championships.  I jumped in and said no need for bottled water – I’ll bring tap water in coolers for everyone!   Back2Tap has one 5 gallon cooler, but I realized that would not be enough.   I was impressed to learn that the marching band has two of their own that I could borrow.   But then, my mellophone-playing son did the math.   If they were planning on 8 cases of bottled water for 100 people (nearly 2 per person), that’s 8 x 24 bottles /case x 17 oz/bottle or 3264 oz of water.   That’s 25 gallons!    Woops, better borrow another cooler in order to have at least have 20 gallons.   I figured that would be enough since people would be filling their cups with the exact amount they wanted, and there wouldn’t be any waste like with bottled water.   In fact, I expected there would be a lot leftover, but because we had a warm, 70 degree day in late October (notice the shorts!), we drank nearly all 20 gallons!  So if you want to reduce your use of disposable plastic at parties or on the road, I’d go with a conversion rate of one 5 gallon cooler of tap water to replace 2 cases of bottled water.  

In addition to reducing waste, we also saved money serving tap water out of coolers.   Including a bag of ice for each cooler and cups, I spent $22.   Eight cases of bottled water would have cost around $32.    I spurged and added gatorade mix ($8.00) to one of the 5 gallon coolers.  An equivalent number of individually packaged servings of gatorade would have cost around $52.  Using the mix was a huge savings – and they loved it!   Now, if only I could get everyone to recycle the cups!  

For more ideas about going bottle free, visit our Bottle Free Events page.