Remember the bottled-water-versus-tap-water taste test I wrote about a few weeks ago? Here's a recent note sent to folks in the hospital from our catering department head. The response was very positive:
Dear catering customer .
I am emailing you to inform you that BIDMC catering will be removing bottled water from our menu. Instead, we will default to tap water with ice in pitchers with reusable glasses. We have made this decision for environmental reasons detailed below. However, as a large catering consumer, you will also save money by switching to water pitchers. The transition date is September 14th, 2009. From that date moving forward, if water is ordered, you will receive as stated above. If, for any reason, you feel you need bottled water for your event, please contact me directly.
Reasons for “Going Green”
In the past few years we have received many requests to recycle catering bottles, and we hope to have that program in place soon. However, eliminating the bottles is even more environmentally sustainable. Each year, 55,000 bottles, or almost 5% of the 1.2 million bottles cans consumed here at BIDMC, are catering water bottles even though an identical product is available directly from our tap. The decision to phase out these bottles eliminates both unnecessary plastic and the fuel needed to truck water from a bottling plant to a distribution site and then on to BIDMC.
I understand that part of the reason we have been serving bottled water instead of tap has to do with the misperception that our tap water is dirty and unsafe. Because this perception has more to do with the successful marketing campaigns of bottled water companies than reality we would like your help in supporting and promoting this shift to a more environmentally sustainable model. This shift will be successful if we work together to educate our meeting participants.
What folks should know is that tap water is at a minimum as clean and safe as bottled water but often it is cleaner and safer. The MWRA tests our drinking water for 227 contaminants every year and publishes its result on its website. Bottled water companies are held to a lower standard because they don't have to test their water in certified labs. They also don't have to publish the results of any of the tests they do perform. As a result, as an institution that is committed to the public health and safety, we can say unequivocally tap water is certainly no less safe than bottled water and may, in fact, be safer.
There is also a perception that tap water tastes lousy. However, in a recent blind taste test here at BIDMC, 60% of the participants preferred the taste of tap water to that of bottled water and another 15% had no preference. This means we are currently serving water that was only preferred by 25% of the participants. The switch to tap water will mean a shift to the water preferred by the majority of participants.