School to become bottled water free zone
By Armella Sonntag
NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — It was back in October 2010 that a group of students at John Paul II Collegiate in North Battleford began their journey to make their school a bottled water free zone.
Nearly two years later, their perseverance is having a huge impact. Their school will soon become a bottled water free zone and new water re-filling stations have just been installed.
It was after hearing a presentation by Audrey and Clarence Briand, members of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, on the environmental and societal impacts of bottled water that a group of students at JP II Collegiate felt compelled to act.
“I thought it would be cool to take this on,” says Meghan Mercer. The Briands had presented as part of a campaign launched by Development and Peace to raise awareness of the growing trend of privatized water and the need to counter this trend by drinking from public water sources whenever possible.
Mercer, along with her brother Dexter and fellow students Katrina McKinnon and Jillana Schmidt, helped to organize the campaign, through the school’s Key Club, to end the use of bottled water. The Key Club is a student leadership program designed by Kiwanis International to help students develop leadership skills by being involved in building up their schools and communities. All four students are members of the Key Club and they felt that the challenge of making their school a bottled water free zone should be taken up by the club.
“It’s our job to do social justice work in the Key Club. Our school has a Christian base, and we are stewards not just of people, but of the environment,” explains McKinnon.
Schmidt points out that their club had taken on other environmental concerns, so looking at bottled water was a natural extension. In fact, as they learned more about the waste of financial and natural resources of bottled water, Dexter Mercer became increasingly frustrated by the issue. “It made me mad,” he stated bluntly.
The club recruited the support of staff and students, which led to a presentation to the town council of Battleford. The presentation, which was given by staff member Dave McQuaid, student Sara Leibel, and Armella Sonntag, regional animator for Development and Peace, prompted the town council to declare March 10, 2011 a bottled water free day.
They also approached the school’s Visions Committee, comprised of administration and staff, to consider a ban on bottled water in the school and to install water filling stations to refurbish the old water fountains.
The Visions Committee became a big supporter of the project.
It may have taken time, but the students never gave up, and in May 2012, two new re-filling stations were installed at the school. The students say that these re-filling stations are catching on. One is placed just outside the gymnasium, handy for quick bottle refills, while the other is in the students’ commons area.
“In the past, students never would have used the old water fountains,” says Dexter. The re-filling stations “are a physical reminder to students and staff to be mindful of the environment,” adds Meghan.
JPII Collegiate is the first school in the Light of Christ Catholic School Division to install water re-filling stations; but word has spread. The students have heard that because of their work, other schools in the Battlefords, Saskatoon and Regina are also considering doing the same.