Fall brings with it cold weather and the comforts of tea, hot cocoa, or coffee. That’s why October’s Green Tip of the Month from the Harvard University Office for Sustainability encourages you to BYOB—bring your own reusable bottle and/or mug, that is!

According to the Pacific Institute, making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 17 million barrels of oil annually. To put it another way, the entire energy costs of the lifecycle of a bottle of water is equivalent, on average, to filling up a quarter of each bottle with oil.

And tap water consistently performs the same as or better than bottled water in taste tests. Maybe that’s because up to 40 percent of bottled water is actually just tap water—even though it costs about 2,000 times more according to Food and Water Watch.

As part of the Green Tip, the Harvard Community is being encouraged to send a “mug shot” featuring a picture of you drinking out of a mug or water bottle to sustainability@harvard.edu. OFS will post the photos in an album online and the most creative entry will win a prize.

Across the University, students, staff and faculty are taking action to reduce waste by avoiding bottled water:

  • The Freshman Green ’14 Program gave out reusable mugs to each of the 1,300 freshmen who attended last month’s Green Brain Break in Annenberg.
  • Harvard School of Public Health Sebastians Café no longer sells bottled water—adding up to over 52,000 bottles kept out of landfills per year!
  • FAS Faculty Council meetings no longer offer bottled water—just water pitchers with compostable cups.
  • Read the recent Gazette article “Spouting Off” about a new book co-authored by a Harvard professor and fellow on the looming water crisis: /gazette/story/2010/10/spouting-off/

To read this month’s Green Tip of the Month, visit www.green.harvard.edu/greentip.