by Hannah Elliott
Whether it’s from a cooler or a vending machine, bottled water is available around nearly every corner at the University of Regina.
But at Campion College, some students and staff are urging you to think twice before buying a bottle of H20. Since November, they’ve been encouraging thirsty students to fill up their water bottles instead.
“Our Campion Campus Ministry and the Campion College Students’ Union have committed to going bottled water free,” said Campus Minister Stephanie Molloy. “This doesn’t necessarily commit the entire college to the campaign, but we’re working towards that end.”
It began last November when five Campion students traveled to Saint John, N.B. to attend a Canadian Catholic Students’ Association conference. There, they were inspired by a presentation about the negative effects of bottled water, given by Development and Peace, a Canadian Catholic organization that assists developing countries.
“It was sort of a brainstorming session on things we could do on our own campuses,” said Anna Weber, one of the Campion attendees at the conference.
The students returned to Regina with a plan to represent the Development and Peace campaign at Campion, where it received much support. They raised student awareness by presenting skits and distributing stickers and “Bottled Water Free Zone” signs. Students could also sign anti-bottled water pledges.
Molloy said that one of the main focuses of the campaign is on how the bottled water industry affects social justice in the Global South.
“In some countries, the government has basically sold the right to water, and it’s no longer free,” she said. “That has implications for farmers who depend on the supply of water for watering crops, and if they have to pay for it, it causes great stress. It doesn’t allow them, in certain cases, to feed their families, because they can’t afford to run the farm.”
The Campion advocates are hoping to raise more awareness by taking the Development and Peace campaign to the main university campus this semester, where they will make presentations and distribute information.
“We’re hoping to go to different parts of the campus where there are vending machines,” said Molloy.
These vending machines represent the biggest obstacle in the fight to reduce bottled water consumption: the tight contracts between the university and exclusive cold beverage suppliers.
In the meantime, the activists are ensuring that there is easy access to clean, free water by making sure the water fountains in the Campion College building are in working order, and by encouraging students to use the water bottle filling stations.
Not all Campion students are worried about bottled water. Student Jenna Kulyk supports the idea behind the campaign, but she said that bottled water on campus isn’t always a bad thing if it provides a healthy beverage choice.
“Bottled water is more accessible, and that means people are drinking more water,” she said.
Megan Schneiger, another Campion student, said she didn’t feel affected by the issue.
“I usually have my own water bottle, but bottled water (is more convenient) if I don’t have it.”
But Weber said that most feedback has been positive.
“I think people are interested in taking a look at some of the brochures and stuff that have been out there. I think people have been fairly receptive to the idea here,” she said.
The Universities of Ottawa and Winnipeg, Bishop’s University, and Ryerson University have all successfully phased out bottled water on their campuses.
Photo by Hannah Elliott