Monday, November 15, 2010

Groundswell...the day we imagined pirate ships...

All Souls Day this year was also the D&P Educator's day.  On Nov. 1st over fifty educator's from across the archdiocese gathered at St. Bonaventure's parish hall to hear from ALCDSB trustee John Brisbois.  They came to hear how the ALCDSB became one of the only school boards in the entire country to have a board-wide policy banning bottled water.  John is a retired educator with over thirty years experience.  He is a long-time D&P member and did a stint on our National Council.

Schools are probably the hardest spaces to create bottled-water free zones.  Vending machines bring in much needed extra money for school sports teams, bands, choirs, and all manner of extra-curricular activities.  They are also an easy fundraiser.  John shared that he too had sold bottled water through the school without much thought in the past.  That changed when educator's got board approval to form a board-wide social justice committee.  That committee decided to take on the bottled water issue.  Over three years they did all kinds of work educating students about bottled water.  In this way they created a groundswell of support which eventually culminated in the board-wide policy passed January 29th 2009.  John believes the campaign was successful because it was run bottom-up instead of top-down.

Of course it wouldn't be a campaign workshop without an appearance by the D&P supersoaker, which vigilantly denies people access to clean drinking water at all our workshops.  This time Sylvia Skrepichuk did the honours, I was the victim and it was caught on film.


In break-out groups participants brainstormed how our school boards in the Archdiocese of Toronto could create a similar groundswell to that in ALCDSB and eventually go bottled water free.  These ideas were then developed further in the educator's group mtg. following the workshop (i.e. the day's planning committee).

One school when taking on this issue in the past had created a pirate ship out of discarded water bottles.  We soon hit on the idea to have each school create one of these ships.  Each school's ship will carry signed D&P pledges from the student body to the board office on Bottled Water Free Day, March 10th, 2011.  Our idea is to raise this armada and deliver a "Message in a Bottle"  - Students want to work with school board leaders to create bottled water free zones!  The first student day is November 9th for Dufferin-Peel. Ship's Ahoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Good Mileage in Kingston

October 30th the newly active Kingston Archdiocesan Council hosted a campaign workshop at the diocesan centre in Kingston.  The council was very happy with the turnout - twenty more drops added to our river of justice. Congratulations to all who helped make it a success!

A most interesting exchange happened as Belleville participants asked those gathered what could be done about their tap water, which has a pretty bad reputation.  Many choose bottled water because of this.  Another participant from Kingston related how his city had made large investments in filtration systems to improve the quality of the tap water.  Could Belleville get their leaders to talk to folks from Kingston for ideas he wondered?  Also, KFL&A Public health has a new initiative called Tap into Kingston. The initiative aims  at promoting tap water and includes a map of local businesses, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes that let people in the community fill their reusable water bottle with great tasting tap water.

The discussion highlighted for me the importance of how the D&P pledge is worded.  The pledge stresses support for Public Water utilities before it talks about choosing tap water over bottled water.  An integral part of choosing the tap is to protect it. If you want to know about your area's tap water, the provincial government has a good website to do some research.

During the workshop we collect creative ideas about how to communicate facts about water taken from our action sheet.  One of my favourites: An Announcement could be made at mass that, due to health & safety concerns, all Holy Water in the church will be replaced by bottled water.  As a result, you must place a penny in a jar each time you bless yourself in an effort to off-set the cost.

That Saturday I travelled about 500KM. I was struck by a thought en route home as I filled up at  a road-side gas station: how much would it cost me if I was filling my tank with bottled water instead of gas? It had already been pointed out to me that bottled water is more expensive than gas.  When I got home I did some math.  My bill at that station was $30.89 for 31.045L (.995/L HST inc)  The McDonalds right by my office sells Dasani for 1.79/500ml plus tax.  By my calculations, if I had filled my gas tank up with Dasani bottled water it would have cost me $128.58.  Ouch.  

Fill the car with gas.
Fill the car with Dasani

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Have you Seen the Drinking Fountain Here?"

"Have you seen the Drinking Fountain Here?"  asks Colin - Kaitlyn Zarzour.  Colin is a Student Trustee with the Durham Catholic District School Board.  I've been invited here by Colin to speak at the monthly student senate meeting he co-chairs at the board office.  We pause my presentation on our Water Campaign right at the point I am talking about drinking fountains in schools.  When else do you get to stop a meeting and run out of the room to check out a drinking fountain? Awesome.  Within minutes I'm introduced by Colin to the Elkay EZH2O bottle filling station just outside the meeting room.  The board office installed the drinking fountain as part of their efforts to reduce the consumption of bottled water. This filling station actually counts the number of plastic bottles diverted from waste management systems through its use.

Colin and the rest of the senate are planning to make Water the broad theme of a board-wide initiative this year.  Creative ideas flow from the students as they brainstorm ways to make this campaign a reality. We at Development and Peace are ready to walk with them!  November 24th will be our annual Student Day for high schools in Durham.  Incidently, it was at this very day some fifteen odd years ago (when D&P was focused on the issue of sweat shops)  that I first became aquainted with Development and Peace as a high school student at St. Mary in Pickering.  Now Colin and the rest of the student senate are carrying the torch and burning bright.