Today at the park, around Noon, an ambulance (and fire truck!) was called for a little girl. Apparently, she fainted due to dehydration. It can happen much more quickly for kids than for adults. So, make good use of the water fountain (or water balloons – several kids were drinking from those) while at the playground and park.
VESTA (Vancouver Elem. School Teachers Assoc.) has recommended to trustees that the Vancouver Board of Education ban the sale of bottled water in Vancouver schools, and for the Board to ensure free safe drinking water access at all worksites.
The City of Vancouver has recently made decisions around bottled water, and VESTA is encouraging the school district to work in conjunction with the city in this regard.
Other school districts across Canada have already gone in this direction, and it would be worthwhile for Vancouver to take a similar lead. There are many reasons to ban bottled water in Vancouver schools. Until very recently, bottled water was the fastest growing sector of the beverage industry, outpacing the consumption of coffee, tea, apple juice and milk. This global billion dollar industry – dominated by four large multinational corporations Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Danone – continues to rely on carefully crafted marketing campaigns, designed to manipulate consumers into believing that bottled water is healthy, pure, and even environmentally friendly.
It can be argued that the industry’s marketing strategy has resulted in undermining public confidence in tap water. Images of pristine landscapes and snow-capped mountains on plastic water bottles and vending machines mask the real facts behind the bottled water trend. Bottled water uses vast amounts of energy and resources to produce and transport and their disposal in landfills pollutes the ground and atmosphere. Another worrisome fact is that bottled water is less stringently regulated than tap water and is up to 10,000 times more expensive.
Finally, bottled water also sets the stage for the privatization of water services by cultivating a consumer willingness to pay for water. Water is a resource essential to life and a fundamental human right and should not be viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold for profit.
The consumption of bottled water is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just ten years ago most people living in Canada and the U.S. obtained their drinking water directly from the tap. Getting a drink of water at school, on campus or in many other public buildings was as simple as using a water fountain.
Water fountains, however, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past – even in Vancouver schools. It appears that water fountains are being neglected in favour of the more expensive and less sustainable sale of bottled water.
Public awareness about the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of the bottled water industry is increasing, and the momentum to move away from it and get back to publicly provided tap water is growing.
Restaurants, as well as labour, environmental and faith based organizations, school boards and municipalities are all part of the growing movement challenging bottled water. In December, Toronto became the largest city in the world to pass a comprehensive policy banning the sale and provision of bottled water in city-owned and operated facilities and committing to accessible tap water by re-investing in public water services. There are also currently over 50 bottled water free zones on 21 campuses across Canada.
School boards can play an important role and demonstrate leadership in contributing to sustainability initiatives by becoming bottled water free campuses and prioritizing safe and accessible public water systems.
Thus, VESTA is calling for a ban on bottled water sales in Vancouver public schools, and is calling for the Board to install new water fountains and repair broken ones and commit to re-building, maintaining and upgrading water infrastructure in all of Vancouver’s public schools.