No Movement On Bottled Water

Anti-bottle mascot Huggy the Muggy mugs for the camera alongside student union execs and Concordia VP Services Roger Coté. PHOTO ERIN SPARKS

After a sit-in, countless meetings, a panel discussion and two open forums, Concordia is no closer to a decision on banning bottled water on campus.

On Wednesday, Concordia VP Services Roger Côté hosted two open forums where students could voice their opinions on Concordia’s tap water and whether they want bottled water on campus. No final decisions were made and there is no deadline for dealing with the issue.

Speaking at one of the forums, Côté said that the forums show “an intention, certainly on my part, to act on the issue. What that action will be, and what form it will take is yet to be defined.”
Côté was pressed on whether it is even possible to remove bottled water now that the five-year exclusive beverage contract with PepsiCo. has been renewed.

“The provisions of the agreement that the university has entered with PepsiCo. allows for the limitation of the sale of bottled water within that agreement,” he said.

The beverage contract sparked controversy within the student body in October, as the university reached an agreement with PepsiCo. without consulting or notifying students. As a result, nearly 40 students occupied the ninth floor of Concordia’s GM Building, where university officials met with representatives of the bottled water industry.

After making his opening statements on Wednesday, Côté opened the floor to forum members, which included members of anti-bottled water coalition TAPthirst, the Concordia Student Union, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations and students at large.

While some suggested upgrading the water fountains with infrared sensors, or having biodegradable cups on hand for students, the most agreed upon idea was further maintenance of Concordia’s water fountains.

“A lot of students don’t want to use the water fountains because they find [them] disgusting,” said Chad Walcott, ASFA’s VP of external affairs and sustainability. “It’s not too much of a choice [between bottled or tap water] if one of the choices disgusts you.”

Anyone who sees a water fountain in need of maintenance was told to call the university at extension 2400.

Another popular notion was for a campus-wide education program to inform students about bottled and tap water.

“The most important point [with regards to an education policy] would be to show students that tap water is just as good and just as healthy as bottled water,” said Walcott.

“People will always choose bottled water because they have this ideology that it’s cleaner,” said Diana Kirkwood, a recent Concordia graduate and a zero-waste campaign manager. “If we create an education program [explaining] that there’s no real difference between bottled water and tap water, then we can probably change the culture of water consumption at Concordia.”

For those upset by the pace of bottled water efforts, there is at least one more scheduled opportunity for students to voice their opinion. In March there will be a referendum allowing students to vote on whether they want the sale of bottled water banned from campus. While it may be a non-binding poll, it is intended to show Roger Côté exactly what the students want.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 21, published February 1, 2011.