Phasing out Bottled Water
Tap Water Wins Big in BIDMC Taste Test
Taste Test Results
A recent "Tap vs. Bottled" water taste test by Facilities Department staff found 60 percent of the 300 participants preferred tap to bottled water in a blind taste test, according to BIDMC's new Sustainability Coordinator Amy Lipman, Facilities. Only 25 percent of those surveyed preferred bottled water, while another 15 percent thought they both tasted fine.
"Many people didn't find any difference and many people who normally drink bottled water were really surprised to find that tap water tasted just as good, if not better," said Kimberly Chun, Summer Intern, Facilities, who conducted the survey with fellow Intern Joey Bazinet.
The Cost of Bottled Water
Despite the small percentage of people surveyed who preferred bottled water, individual departments collectively spend about $50,000 per year on Poland Spring coolers across the medical center - consuming some 33,000 gallons of water annually, said Lipman. "If these departments consumed tap water instead, the cost would be just $200, and we would not need 6,700 plastic jugs or the gas used to transport the water in large trucks," Lipman said.
Given the overwhelming survey results, Catering began serving tap water in glasses instead of bottled water in September - resulting in 55,000 fewer plastic bottles consumed each year. "At a time when BIDMC is looking to contain spending and take steps to protect the environment, reducing the amount of bottled water consumed throughout the medical center is a win-win proposition," said Walter Armstrong, Senior Vice President, Capital Facilities and Engineering.
Lipman said there are legitimate reasons why some departments have opted for bottled water coolers in their areas, but that the option to switch to filtered tap water exists. "There are areas that are far away from tap water sources, plus many people like having easy access to hot water for tea or soup when there is no microwave nearby," she said. "However, we can help these departments install bottle-less coolers at a minimal cost compared to their annual bottled water bill."
If there is a sink nearby and the department would prefer to filter the tap water right on the sink, Maintenance can install filters. There is a one-time installation cost of between $500 to $600, and a $50 annual cost to change the filters. For most departments this results in a large cost savings. Contact Kevin Lincoln, Mechanical Supervisor, Facilities Management and Redevelopment, for details.
Last but not least, Lipman notes that BIDMC cafeterias sell approximately 45,000 bottles of plain bottled water each year and an additional 19,000 bottles of sparkling or flavored water. Simply bringing your own mug to drink tap water from the soda machine will help reduce beverage container consumption by five percent, she said.