Students from Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts hold their pirate ship made from plastic water bottles during a rally held on Bottled Water-Free Day at the Catholic Education Centre in March. From left to right, Ann Blennerhassett, Clare Wheeler and Madeline Della Mora.

TCDSB set to become a bottled water-free zone

By 
  • May 4, 2011
Students from Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts hold their pirate ship made from plastic water bottles during a rally held on Bottled Water-Free Day at the Catholic Education Centre in March. From left to right, Ann Blennerhassett, Clare Wheeler and Madeline Della Mora. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - A motion to make the Toronto Catholic District School Board a “bottled water-free zone” by September 2012 has passed unanimously.

The board will “work towards phasing out and eliminating bottled water in all schools, cafeterias, vending machines, school and board functions and all school board property,” read the motion presented at the April 20 board meeting.

The objective is to have all schools in the TCDSB become bottled water-free zones, said trustee Maria Rizzo, who said she put the motion forward on behalf of all the board’s students. Full implementation will depend on contracts the board has signed with vending machine operators.

“But we might have contracts right now with vending machine companies so we can’t end those until the contract ends,” she said. “I don’t know how long our vending machine contracts go for. They might go until September 2013 but what that means is those contracts will not be renewed.”

The motion also said that board staff will prepare a report and develop a strategy to eliminate bottled water in schools and buildings, which includes educating and increasing the level of awareness of the detrimental impact of the continued use of bottled water and provide alternate means of providing drinking water.

The Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team (CSLIT), the student senate for the board, has been working since September to help mobilize students, said Natalie Rizzo, the student trustee for the TCDSB and CSLIT chair. Specifically, the CSLIT Boycott the Bottle Committee has been very active in partnership with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, whose year-long campaign against the privatization of water themed “Water for All: Let Justice Flow,” has educated both students and staff about the effects bottled water is having on the Global South through a student conference and an educator’s day.

Bottled water companies are buying more water sources and denying access to local communities who need water for life and livelihoods, said Luke Stocking, Central Ontario Animator for Development and Peace.

“Bottled water is the most visible symbol of turning this public good into a private good for private profit.”

Stocking said he is both thrilled and proud the motion passed.

“I really feel an immense sense of pride especially because I know this motion is the fruit of the commitment of the students of the Toronto Catholic District School Board to creating a bottled water-free culture in their schools.”

Throughout the year, students have taken action to reduce the use of bottled water in schools, including collecting empty bottles which they made into pirate ships for a rally at the Catholic Education Centre on Bottled Water-Free Day in March.

T.A.P. H20 (Teens Against the Privatization of Water), a social network created by students at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, has also played a major role in supporting this initiative, said Rizzo.

In order to make the board bottled water free, a working committee of trustees, teachers and students is being formed, she said. Stocking said the support that committee receives will be crucial in the success of the motion.

“I hope that they will look to other school boards. In particular, the Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board has a successful policy with respect to bottled water,” said Stocking.

“We’ve created this mighty river of a movement and now we’re seeing, through things like this resolution, the fruit of that.”

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