Five years after water bottle ban, the decision needs another look

Plastic bottles filled with sugary drinks aren’t any more environmentally conscious than plastic bottles filled with water.

Considering last week’s passed motion in AMS Assembly to dissolve the Commission of Environmental Affairs, now is as good a time as ever to think critically about what we can be doing differently on campus to prioritize sustainability and healthy living.

In September 2012, the sale of water bottles was banned on campus, due to the proven environmental effect they have. But five years later, students walk into Cogro or Mac-Corry to see fridges filled with plastic bottles of pop, juices and energy drinks. So what exactly have we accomplished?

Eliminating plastic waste is understandable, but it shouldn’t be selective. Why are water bottles banned when we have a seemingly infinite supply of sugary drinks in the same plastic bottles?

There’s much more we can do. The AMS, in their plans for the environmental sustainability, could work with the DrugSmart pharmacy in the ARC to increase the supply of reusable bottles and thermoses and make sure they are being sold at a reasonable cost. While there are many places to buy food on campus that use non-reusable cups, the drugstore is a good place to start as a common retail location on campus.

Students would have the means to buy the tools and without the option of any bottled drinks on campus, would have more incentive to use reusable bottles for water and even freshly-squeezed orange juice from the new machine in Grocery Checkout.

As well, cooperation and incentive from different AMS services could encourage sustainable practices. Cogro this year hosted a Mug Day, where if you brought a reusable cup, you received a free beverage. Campaigns like this, if they became more of a mainstay and students were able to easily purchase the needed cups, could become a norm on campus.

Often, drinks sold in vending machines aren’t helping promote healthy living on campus — there are 41 grams of sugar in one 12 oz bottle of orange juice. Taking away the ease of these options wouldn’t only benefit the environment, but student’s health as well.

The ban on water bottles was a step in the right direction to make Queen’s a more environmentally conscious campus, but decisions like these require continuous check-ins to make sure they’re doing what they promised.

Five years later, the original ban could use some updating. We can still make a positive change by eliminating plastic bottles on campus — and not just those with water in them.

Shivani is a third-year Politics student. She’s one of The Journal’s Features Editors. 

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