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Monday, November 17th 2008
Students “tap in” to challenge bottled water industry on campus
OTTAWA – Today, eight Canadian universities are taking part in a day of action to raise awareness about bottled water and to call on administrations to increase access to public tap water systems on campus. Campus organizers at Brock, Guelph, Lakehead, Queen’s, Ryerson, Ottawa, Prince Edward Island and Trent universities are planning a variety of events and activities.
The day of action will engage campus communities in learning about the social, environmental, economic and health impacts of bottled water, and to draw attention to the lack of access to public tap water on Canadian campuses. Katherine Giroux-Bougard, Canadian Federation of Students National Chairperson, says, “Students are taking action against the privatization of water and unnecessary waste.”
Some day of action activities include:
Campus tours with stops at Coca-Cola or Pepsi advertising, vending machines, and water fountains on campus.
Taste tests of bottled water vs. tap water
Festive parades with dance and street theatre performances
‘Chain of consumption’ displays made of empty plastic bottles that demonstrate the amount of energy it takes to produce bottled water and the waste the products create.
Bottled water companies are reacting to challenges in schools, municipalities, and in school boards against their product, by claiming that they are simply providing consumers with a choice. Today, students are asking “whose water? And what choice?”. Zoe Maggio, Water Campaigner with the Polaris Institute asks, “What choice do people on campus really have to buy a bottle of Dasani or Aquafina from Coca-Cola or Pepsi vending machines when there are not enough water fountains or they are not being maintained?” A survey released in September by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Polaris Institute, found that 33% of respondents noticed a reduction in the number of water fountains on campus and 43% cited delays in repairing them.
The Bottled Water Free Zones Campaign was launched in March in conjunction with World Water Day, with over 40 zones on 15 campuses being created – spaces where bottled water is not being purchased, alternatives such as glasses, pitchers and reusable stainless steel containers for tap water are being promoted and provided, and beverage exclusivity contracts are being challenged.
Campus groups participating in the day of action are:
Environmental Society, University of Prince Edward Island
· Green Campus, University of Ottawa
· Guelph Students for Environmental Change (GSEC), Guelph University
· Lakehead Campus Sustainability Committee, Lakehead University
· Ontario Public Interest Research Group – Brock (OPIRG-Brock), Brock University
· Students Taking Responsible Initiatives for a Viable Environment (STRIVE), Queen’s University
· Sustainable Trent, Trent University
· Working Students’ Centre, Ryerson University
For more information, and to arrange interviews with campus organizers, please contact:
The Campus Bottled Water Free Zones Campaign is a Polaris Institute initiative in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Sierra Youth Coalition (SYC). The campaign aims to challenge the corporate control of water one space at a time by raising awareness and action on the bottled water industry and calling for the re-building and maintaining of safe and accessible public tap water systems for all.
Polaris Institute works on major public policy issues like water and develops new tools and strategies to assist social movements in fighting for democratic social change in an age of corporate driven globalization.
The Sierra Youth Coalition’s Sustainable Campuses project aims to empower students to lead initiatives on their campuses toward greater social, ecological and economic sustainability through changes to campus operations, curricula and culture.
The Canadian Federation of Students represents over one half million Canadian students and provides them with an effective and united voice, provincially and nationally.