The Unintended Consequences of Changes in Beverage Options and the Removal of Bottled Water on a University Campus

Am J Public Health. 2015 Jul;105(7):1404-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302593. Epub 2015 May 14.


Objectives: We investigated how the removal of bottled water along with a minimum healthy beverage requirement affected the purchasing behavior, healthiness of beverage choices, and consumption of calories and added sugars of university campus consumers.

Methods: With shipment data as a proxy, we estimated bottled beverage consumption over 3 consecutive semesters: baseline (spring 2012), when a 30% healthy beverage ratio was enacted (fall 2012), and when bottled water was removed (spring 2013) at the University of Vermont. We assessed changes in number and type of beverages and per capita calories, total sugars, and added sugars shipped.

Results: Per capita shipments of bottles, calories, sugars, and added sugars increased significantly when bottled water was removed. Shipments of healthy beverages declined significantly, whereas shipments of less healthy beverages increased significantly. As bottled water sales dropped to zero, sales of sugar-free beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages increased.

Conclusions: The bottled water ban did not reduce the number of bottles entering the waste stream from the university campus, the ultimate goal of the ban. With the removal of bottled water, consumers increased their consumption of less healthy bottled beverages.

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / supply & distribution*
  • Carbonated Beverages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Drinking Water*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Policy
  • Universities / organization & administration*
  • Vermont


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Drinking Water