Banning the Sale of Bottled Water on George Brown Campus

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Justification


George Brown College has made a commitment to sustainability. Waste management is a huge issue for cities, as consumption grows along with rapid population increase, and the fact that cities are externally dependant bodies that import material and export its waste to outside regions. Bottled water poses threats to all three pillars of sustainability - environmental integrity, economic development, and social equity.


Environmental Integrity:

●      It is said in a study that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Bottled water is a huge contributing factor to this statistic, as it is one of the main polluters of our land and water ecosystems.

●      High consumption, usually of non-recyclable or compostable materials, with poor waste management creates unimaginable amounts of waste.

●      This waste ends up in landfills or polluting our terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which creates negative consequences for the health of the planet, it’s biodiversity, and humans.

●      Landfills give off greenhouse gases, and release dangerous materials into the surrounding soil and underwater and nearby water sources.

●       Aside from the landfills themselves, transporting waste outside of the city consumes a lot of resources, and releases a lot of greenhouse gasses. Less waste going to the landfill thus also means less energy needed to transport it.

●      Have to transport water huge distances from location of extraction.

●      Water extraction methods may exceed natural replenishment rates, which depletes underground water sources and can cause natural hazards.

●      Plastic is also a petroleum based product, and oil spills are currently a large threat to our world’s aquatic ecosystems and water sources.

●      Recycling is an energy intensive process, and recycling systems are often improperly or ineffectively used, thus should be implemented as a last resort after reducing consumption.

●      The production of plastic products such as water bottles consumes a lot of oil, water, and other resources. In fact, it requires more water to produce the bottle than there is inside of it. (Queens plan). Plastic water bottle consumption thus poses threats to sustainability pre and post consumer. 

Economic Development

●      Inflated costs for bottled water that can be 200 times the amount of the same volume of tap water.

●      Potentially can create cost-savings through no longer purchasing of water bottles, and reducing the amount of cups needed to be supplied from Tim Hortons.

●      With the current energy market, oil baseds products are only expected to rise.

●      Water crisis may result in increased costs of bottled water.

Social Equity

●      The negative externalities created by the presence of landfills, including air and water pollution, and those associated with climate change as a whole, are most directly felt by the already marginalized groups of nearby communities and lower income countries. Reducing the need for landfills helps combat the issues faced by these communities.

●      Water is also a foundational human right, and selling bottled water is commoditizing a human right.

●      The extraction of spring water, whether it be from marginalised regions or depleting underground water sources, poses environmental and social equity concerns.

●      Companies like Nestle have come under fire for their social injustices related to their extraction of water resources and polluting water sources in third world countries, along with other cases related to their other products.

●      In addition, bottling this resource and selling it leads to access to clean water a privilege, not a right. Fresh drinking water should be free and easily accessible for all people.

●      From a human health standpoint, water should available as a healthy alternative to other bottled drinks, and there should be no financial barriers between this and students.

Implementation


The two most important factors to creating a successful implementation of this project are convenience and awareness. We must make the alternative just as convenient as finding a vending machine. In terms of bringing their own containers, there is not much inconvenience. In this case, awareness will make the difference. In a Green Team meeting full of people who are relatively aware of why we should not use plastic water bottles, ten out of eleven attendees had brought their own water bottles. This is a true testiment to how it is not convenience, but awareness that is the biggest indicator of whether or not these kinds of initiatives will be successful.

Awareness does not happen most effectively from a top down prescriptive approach. Bottom up initiatives that create engagement in the issue will create the most change, however, the proposed project will implement elements of both methods. Signage will be places on vending machines and water bottle filling stations regarding plastic waste in addition to the plastic saving meter already installed in the newest model of bottle filling stations. The sustainability club will continue to host sustainability (specifically waste management) events, many of which will incorporate education on plastic waste from bottled water. As more events are carried out and visible projects are implemented, students will have higher levels of environmental literacy, and sustainability will be part of everyday culture on campus. This will allow for more effective initiatives, including the increase of students bringing their own reusable containers and utilizing the water filling stations.

In order to prioritize health and safety, GBC will follow what York University’s bottled water ban, in which bottled water will still be available for outdoor events that tap water can’t be made available, or for cases of emergency. As Trent University does, bulk water coolers will be used, and biodegradable cups will be provided for events to decrease the need for emergency water bottles.



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