Say Goodbye to Bottled Water

At St. Catherine’s High School, the sisters decided to ditch bottled water for a water cooler. But it wasn't without a cost.

Four months ago at the 350-student St. Catherine’s High School here, bottled water was removed from the menu.

“The Sisters—we are a Catholic school—wanted to start employing green practices,” says Beverly Gilbert, foodservice manager. “One of the suggestions to accomplish this was to go to a water cooler instead of selling bottled water.”

The water cooler, which provides hot and cold water, cost about $300, which Gilbert says is the low end of the price range. The cooler is hooked up to the city’s water supply. The water runs through filters that need to be changed every six months, at an additional cost of about $100. Students can either bring their own container to fill up or can use a paper cup that is provided.

Although the switch has helped to achieve the school’s goal of reducing the amount of plastic bottles that end up in area landfills, Gilbert says it has hurt the department financially. “Bottled water was our biggest seller,” she says, adding that about 65 bottles were sold each day. With each bottle selling for $1, the estimated monthly sales loss has been nearly $1,300.

“We had to get creative and introduce new (in-house made) a la carte items like cinnamon rolls, pies, cakes and flavored pretzels to make up for the missed revenue,” she says. Since adding the new items, Gilbert says, sales have returned to what they were before bottled water was eliminated.

Bottled water is sold in a vending machine, which it is only in operation after school hours. Gilbert says the next step in going green would to switch to biodegradable paper products.