Bottled water free zones in the works at high schools

  • January 13, 2011
Bottled water free zoneTORONTO - As part of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s year-long campaign against the privatization of water, Catholic high schools in the archdiocese of Toronto are working to create “bottled water free zones” within their schools.

Themed “Water for All: Let Justice Flow,” the kick-off for the campaign in schools took place over three student workshop days held in November for more than 400 students in the Greater Toronto Area. Since then, schools have started to take action.

“The idea is to create a culture where students don’t bring bottled water or use bottled water even though they may have the right,” said Luke Stocking, Central Ontario Animator for Development and Peace.

Bottled water companies are buying more water sources and denying access to local communities in the global south who need water for life and livelihoods, said Stocking. “Bottled water is the most visible symbol of turning this public good into a private good for private profit.”

At Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts, the school is planning to stop selling bottled water at the concession stand by the theatre, said chaplain Marilyn Grace.

“We’re thinking of offering jugs of water instead.”

She said they’re hoping to create a Cardinal Carter reusable water bottle that students could bring to shows and are planning on holding a design competition among students.

“But it’s all an ongoing process… it’s not something that can happen overnight. We’ve got to get all the stakeholders on board.”

At Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, the school has applied for various grants to fund its initiatives, said teacher Kathy Saran. So far, the school has received a $500 grant from Learning for a Sustainable Future, a registered not-for-profit charitable organization whose goal is to integrate sustainability education into Canada’s education system.

“We’re using that money to purchase stainless steel water bottles,” said Saran. “We hope to raise enough money to make it part of the uniform so that next year all of the incoming Grade 9 students get a free stainless steel bottle of water.” To date, the school has purchased 100 bottles, she said.

And at the school’s annual art show in April, Saran said one part of the show will centre on the environmental theme surrounding the bottled water free zone campaign.

“The theme this year is ‘Luminescence’ so the students hope to use plastic water bottles with light in order to shed light on the situation.”

Meanwhile, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., chaplain Anne Brisbois Abbott said the main way the school is trying to create a bottled water free zone is through plenty of education.

“The more education we give, the more it becomes natural not to have bottled water,” she said.

Towards the end of February, the school’s environmental club will set up a booth in the foyer during lunches where it will project an interview of actor Matt Damon speaking about the water crisis from a clip on

Brisbois Abbott also held retreats for more than 450 Grade 10 students that focused on the duty of Catholics to be active stewards of the planet.

While the initiatives to create bottled water free zones within high schools are ongoing, the highlight of the campaign is going to take place on Bottled Water Free Day. Development and Peace has invited schools to collect discarded plastic water bottles throughout the year, place pledge cards to be bottled water free inside them and then to create pirate ships out of the plastic bottles. On March 10, these bottled water ships will gather at the Catholic Education Centre.

“We’re hoping it will be a celebration so that students in the Toronto Catholic District School Board recognize water as a God-given gift and celebrate that gift,” said Stocking.

Jessica Lee, a leader of Just Youth, the social justice club at Cardinal Carter, said it’s important for Catholic students to be aware of the world around them.

“We’re always told to be compassionate and peacemakers and it’s obvious that bottled water is not fulfilling that desire to be a compassionate citizen of the global village.”

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