The University of Vermont had two campus priorities that didn’t quite lineup as many hoped. Several years ago, the school sought to encourage healthier habits by ensuring that all campus vending machines offered low and non-sugar beverages as 30% of their selection, including low-fat milk and bottled water. A student campaign to ban bottled water in favor of reusable bottles also went into effect a few months later. Instead of resulting in lower sugar consumption and less waste on campus, the bottled water ban only had students choosing more sweetened drinks from vending machines and still using disposable bottles.
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“The researchers found that ‘per capita shipments of bottles, calories, sugars and added sugars increased significantly when bottled water was removed … As bottled water sales dropped to zero, sales of sugar-free beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages increased.’ In other words, the policy backfired with both barrels. Students didn’t switch to tap water; they switched to the likes of Coke and Diet Coke instead.”
Perhaps the University of Vermont could have had greater success with its campaigns if it had left positive action to choice rather than as part of a mandatory ban? Considering the increasing number of plastic bag bans being enacted throughout the United States, do you think we’ll see a similar backfire?
What are your thoughts on the failed bottled water ban in Vermont and the attempts to instate similar bans elsewhere? Share your thoughts in the comments.