Striving for a bottle-free campus

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Sustainability group aims to minimize the number of one-time use bottles at Queen’s

Emily Merrick, STRIVE chair and ArtSci ’10, says Canadians consumed 2.1 billion litres of bottled water last year, which required over 1.14 million barrels of oil to produce.
Emily Merrick, STRIVE chair and ArtSci ’10, says Canadians consumed 2.1 billion litres of bottled water last year, which required over 1.14 million barrels of oil to produce.

The ubiquity of bottled water on the Queen’s campus may be a thing of the past if Students Taking Responsible Initiatives for a Viable Environment (STRIVE) has its way.

STRIVE chair Emily Merrick, ArtSci ’10, said the initiative is trying to reduce the number of one-time use bottles used at the University.

“We really want firm results. We really want to educate students about the effects of bottled water.”

Last year’s AMS Sustainability Co-ordinator Maryam Adrangi started the initiative.

Merrick said STRIVE is concentrating its campaign specifically on bottled water. She said the waste generated by the bottled-water industry is unconscionable.

“Between transit, manufacturing and distribution, a bottle of water, a fourth of it should be filled with oil. … It’s just very, very wasteful,” she said. “In 2006, Canadians consumed 2.1 billion litres of bottled water which used over 1.14 million barrels of oil to produce.”

STRIVE is still in the early stages of planning the project, but Merrick said 11 students, including herself, have already been hired to work on it.

Merrick said STRIVE hasn’t discussed their project with the University administration yet. Instead, they plan to focus their campaign on educating students about why bottled water is unsustainable.

“I think what we want to do is talk to students and get students to decrease the use of bottled water,” she said.

Merrick said in November, STRIVE plans to start selling Sigg metal water bottles, which don’t contain the toxic compound Bisphenol A. Until recently, Bisphenol A was found in some commercial water bottles, such as Nalgenes.

Merrick declined to comment on how she thought the project will influence the Cold Beverage Exclusivity Contract.

Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services, said STRIVE’s project won’t affect the Cold Beverage Exclusivity Fund, which makes Coca-Cola the sole provider of cold beverages on campus in exchange for providing money for Queen’s clubs.

“It doesn’t really affect the fund in so much as we’re in kind of a supply and demand world. … The power to do away with those things rests in the hands of the consumer.”

Griffiths said the contract doesn’t require the University to compel students to buy Coca-Cola products, and there’s

little Coca-Cola can do if sales on campus decrease.

“We have a guaranteed revenue stream from them,” he said. “We are behind in vending.”

Phil Sparks, residence district manager for Sodexho at Queen’s, oversees retail operations including the Mackintosh-Corry and JDUC cafeterias and the Lazy Scholar. Sparks said Sodexho has always given students the option to drink water from a tap.

“What we have in place in most of our environments are water fountains … so that people have the choice to not use bottled beverages. … I think it’s always been the case.”

Sparks said Sodexho plans to promote the use of water fountains at their outlets by making the water taps more noticeable.

“It’s just about trying to make them more convenient or more visible,” he said. “I’m going to speak to the manufacturer of the equipment to see what we can do about that.”

But Griffiths said even if the University took official action to try to reduce the number of bottles used on campus, Sodexho’s operations probably wouldn’t change much.

“I don’t think it would have much effect on our operations at all because most people choose the portability of bottled water.”

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