Sometimes A Problem Is An Opportunity In Disguise

by Katy on November 11, 2008 · 5 comments


Bottled Water

I received this comment yesterday from “Grace” in response to my Love Letter To Tap Water:

“I love our well water on tap. It upsets me that I have to give my H.S. student $ to buy water at school because the staff is afraid that students are sneaking in alcohol. It’s not just the money that ticks me off but the thought of all those plastic containers. Somebody’s making a lot of money and desecrating the environment.”

This got me thinking.

Grace’s daughter’s school is just trying to fix what must be a problem for them. (School alcohol use.) They’re not requiring bottled water because they’re bad guys. They’re just doing their best in a difficult situations.

This is an opportunity for Grace and her daughter to work with the school to help come up with a better solution. 

Perhaps Grace and daughter could schedule an appointment, and bring in bottled water statistics and educational materials. Then they could brainstorm with the school on how the bottled water requirement could be relaxed, yet still address the alcohol issue.

Issues to bring up would be:

  • Are there plastic recycling bins throughout the school?
  • How have other schools dealt with this same issue?
  • Has this bottled water requirement actually brought down alcohol use in the school?

If she were to help curb bottled water use in her school, or even simply increase recycling rates, she could take the program district-wide.

There is a real opportunity here. Not just for education and change, but for Grace’s daughter to show initiative in a way that could conceivably help her college prospects. 

What else do you think Grace and her daughter can do to address the bottled water requirement in school? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg November 11, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Maybe the students could bring reusable cups to carry water from the water fountains — there are water fountains, right?!?! (I have to ask because with schools these days, you never know.)

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. If you catch students bringing alcohol, then throw their butts in detention and take away their bottle rights, but don’t punish other innocent students for the stupidity of others.


Dan W. November 11, 2008 at 10:44 pm

My reaction was the same as Meg’s – don’t they have drinking fountains? Back in my day, that was sufficient; there was no need for cups or bottles at all!

(My suspicion is that many school districts have been encouraged to let their water fountains break down or be taken a way so that a the Coca-Cola company, or some other purveyor of bottled waters, install their vending machines in their place.)


Amy November 12, 2008 at 5:27 am

Gee. Are we talking about water bottles for afterschool stuff/sports, or in class? When I was in school (and I didn’t graduate ALL that long ago) food and drink weren’t allowed in the classroom. And no one died!

Although I do think this is an opportunity to make some changes at the school as far as their wasteful water bottle practices (and I think the questions you raised are good places to start), I tend to think the bigger issue here is the school trying to make everything ok for everyone…which you can’t do. A couple questions I would add to the list would be: Have they ever caught anyone switching water for vodka…or is just a fear they have? – and – How can they be sure that every kid who is carrying a water bottle bought it at the school? Does the school only carry one kind of water? In other words, is forcing the rule-abiding students to purchase their water bottles there (therby wasting money and plastic) really going to change what the sneaking-in-vodka type kids are going to do?


The Frugalista Files November 12, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I agree with Dan. It’s a ploy to encourage the youth to drink from the vending machines. I can’t believe THAT many kids were getting plastered at school.


hollybgoode November 12, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I teach in a public high school, and yes, kids have bought alcohol in to school but it was in juice, not water. There are water fountains everywhere in my school and most teachers allow the kids to drink water from a bottle.

Our vending machine profits ($30,000 per year at my tiny school) is used to fund all kinds of educational fieldtrips, textbooks, class supplies, etc. So, it’s not the end of the world to buy something from the machines. I think it’s best to consider the recycling option and everybody wins.


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