TAPthirst to fight bottled water on campus

By January 2011, Concordia could be the first bottled water-free campus in Quebec, if TAPthirst Concordia, a student group lobbying against the privatization of water, has their way.

After hustling signatures of support from nearly every department and faculty on campus over the summer, TAPthirst co-founder Laura Beach sent a letter to Concordia President Judith Woodsworth and VP Services Michael DiGrappa on July 7, asking for the administration to take the necessary steps to help create a bottled water-free university.

“Right now we have a huge opportunity,” said Beach. “We’ve finally come to the end a 13-year contract with Pepsi, so now is the time to apply our environmental policy and think about where we’re sourcing our beverages on campus.”

In December, Concordia’s exclusivity agreement with PepsiCo, the veritable goliath of vending machine providers on campus, will expire, opening up the possibilities for a more sustainable, environmentally conscious option to take its place.

TAPthirst, along with the Concordia Student Union, Sustainable Concordia and the Environmental Advisory Committee have outlined clear objectives for beverage contract negotiation, asking that no individually packaged bottled water will be sold on campus, that at least 30 per cent of all products be supplied locally, that the contract will be non-exclusive and that the negotiation of the contracts will be democratic and transparent.

As it turns out, the law is also on TAPthirst’s side; Local Law C-65.1—the Act Respecting Contracting by Public Bodies—standardizes all public-private partnership contracts.

“The law basically says that if we’re entering a contact worth more than $100,000, we have to go through an open bidding process,” said Beach, adding that Concordia could implement criteria for the contract that are environmentally and socially responsible.

“This law wasn’t in effect when the original contract was made, but it is in effect now,” she said, smiling. “Regardless of what happens as the PepsiCo contract expires, we’re mandated by provincial law to make this happen.”

With the end of the contract in sight, PepsiCo and the administration seem to be coming around. Beach will be meeting with both parties in the coming weeks.

“I’m interested to see what happens in the Pepsi meeting and I’m really hoping that they realize how much support there is for this issue,” she said.

On Aug. 20, Woodsworth gave her first public comment to The Link about the potential ban on the bottle.

“That’s good, I support [the ban on bottled water],” she said. “Students are working with Di Grappa, it will take a while to transition, [since] you need to have water fountains on campus before you can take away bottles.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 02, published August 24, 2010.