Toronto District School Board

Plastic water bottles are expensive, can deplete water sources in local communities, take a lot of energy to create and transport, and last in landfills for over four hundred years. Toronto tap water on the other hand is affordable, local, low-waste, and tasty!

To support schools in curbing plastic water bottle consumption, EcoSchools created a reusable water bottle refill program called Project Refill. By providing select schools with water bottle refill stations, this project will help schools move from landfill to refill. 

UPDATE:

Please note for the 2017/18 school year we are not able to accept applications for Project Refill while the Water Refill Station we have been installing is getting a redesign by the manufacturer. We encourage schools to continue with their efforts to curb plastic water bottle usage, promote drinking water as a healthy option, and to educate their communities on local and global water issues. If you have any questions please contact Jenn.Vetter@tdsb.on.ca

Project Refill Initiative Ideas

A successful Project Refill application will include at least two targeted initiatives.
Of the two initiatives:

  • One must be connected to an EcoTeam action.
  • One needs to include a teaching and learning component in the classroom aimed at helping raise awareness around water issues and the importance of waste reduction.
For ideas of what this might look like at your school, review the Project Refill Initiative Ideas resource, or see the examples below.
›  Conduct a Disposable Water Bottle Audit
As a first step it will be useful to find out how many plastic water bottles people use at your school. Set up a system to collect the water bottles that staff and students use for a set period of time (one week to one month). Count the number of bottles collected to create a baseline for how many people are currently using bottled water. After your campaign you may want to conduct another plastic water bottle audit to see the impact of your campaign. In addition, the collected bottles can be incorporated into an educational display after you’ve tallied them (see below for display ideas). 

›  Take a poll


Consider conducting a poll to find out more about why people drink bottled water vs. tap. The poll could consist of a couple simple questions asked in a “hands up” survey format. The results from your poll will provide your team with some direction on what your campaign should focus on. For example, If the poll reveals that staff and students prefer bottled water because they believe it is cleaner and tastes better, your school might benefit from taste tests and an education campaign based on scientific facts.

›  Create targeted communications


Student-made posters can be a powerful way to promote a campaign. Invite students to create posters that communicate the importance of investing in reusable water bottles. Watching The Story of Bottled Water might provide your team with some inspiration. Consider including content related to your campaign in your announcements on a daily/weekly basis. Want to send the message home? Include a write-up about your campaign in the school newsletter and/or on your school website.

›  Create a water bottle display
Creating a dedicated display promotes eco-awareness and can help to inform your school community about your campaign. Using eye-catching visuals, such as a collection of used plastic water bottles (inspect your school’s recycling and garbage bins to collect samples) and/or including facts and figures can help to engage your targeted audience.

Did you know in 2014 the general municipal water rate in the City of Toronto is $0.01344683/gal?

That’s a fraction of what you would pay at your local grocery store for a bottle of water! For additional facts to incorporate into your display check out:

Bottled Water Facts by York University

Once you have built a culture of awareness, go one step further and make your school a plastic water bottle free zone. Encourage staff, students, and parents to make an eco-pledge committing to exclusively using reusable water bottles.

›  Host a water taste test


Some bottled water advocates argue that bottle water tastes better than the municipal water that comes out of our taps. However, studies have shown that when people are asked to blindly sample tap water and bottled water, many are unable to differentiate between the two. Test this out at your school by hosting a water taste test challenge. You will need:

  • Two empty jugs, labelled “1” & “2”
  • Tap Water
  • Bottled Water
  • Cups for sampling
  • A recording device: pencil & paper, whiteboard and marker, iPad etc.
  1. Ahead of time, pour the tap water into jug #1 and the bottled water into jug #2 (or vice versa). Try to ensure both jugs of water are the same temperature (people will often prefer colder water which could skew your results).
  2. Invite staff and students to sample water from both jugs and indicate which jug they believe contains tap water, and which contains bottled water
  3. Record responses and then reveal the contents of each jug to the participants. Were there any surprises? Moving forward, do these results influence the source of drinking water you prefer?
  4. Consider creating a display to communicate the results of your water taste test challenge to the whole school.

›  Hold a reusable water bottle challenge


Encourage your whole school to get on-board by hosting a competition between classes. Track the number of students in each class that use a reusable water bottle and display the results in a prominent area of the school. At the end of the competition, reward the winning class with an eco-friendly prize.

›  Make reusable water bottles available to students and staff


Water bottles can be procured by:
  • approaching a local business for an in-kind donation
  • including the cost of a reusable water bottle in your student fee
  • hosting a reusable water bottle sale or applying for funding (e.g., Metro Green Apple School Program).
Consider personalizing water bottles by having your school logo printed on them and including space for students to write their name. The following is a list of Board-approved water bottle vendors:
Vendor name Vendor number Contact Notes
ADR Promotions #13951 Dov Apter
905-761-9552
Select “Mugs and Drinkware” under Categories
Partners Promotional Group #21518 John Quinn
416-798-9893
Do a Keyword Search for “Water bottle”
Greco Promotional #4152 William
905-850-9441
Under Product Categories, select “Travel Mug and Tumblers”

›  Connect to local and global water events or organizations

›  Include a teaching and learning component

Drinking water and the environmental issues related to disposable water bottles are rich themes that can help students make deeper connections to the impact of installing a water bottle refill station. Integration into classroom teaching is a great way for students to construct their own understanding of these issues. Whether it’s one class focusing on this issue and sharing their findings through a display board or an assembly presentation or the whole school exploring a common theme both offer great opportunities for connecting these ideas to the water bottle station and the broader school culture.
Some of the topics you may want to explore include:

Where does your drinking water come from?
  • Water systems (water cycle, sources of fresh water, watersheds, impacts of human development, transportation, filtration processes, underground water systems, stormwater, contaminants, desertification)
  • Local vs. global sources
Tap vs. bottled
  • Life cycle of disposable water bottles
  • Life cycle of reusable water bottles
  • Impacts (e.g., short/long term, local/global)
    • Health impacts (e.g., hydration, toxicity, filtration, diseases)
    • Environmental impacts (e.g., resource extraction – water and materials, production, transportation, plastics in the oceans, landfills, recycling)
    • Social impacts (e.g., access, source depletion, government regulations, economics, commercialization, rights and responsibilities, ethics)

›  Books with Water Themes


Books are an excellent way to explore themes like drinking water and the environmental issues related to disposable water bottles. Consider drawing on some of the titles in our Books with Water Themes document to help guide classroom discussions. The titles with the yellow star represent some of our favourites for exploring these topics. Check back in mid-January for our list of French resources!

›  The Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines

  • Adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) must be accessible for students before, during and after physical activity at all indoor and outdoor sites to prevent dehydration
  • Students must be informed that they are not to share water bottles
  • Before involving students in outdoor activity, teachers/coaches must take into consideration:
    • environmental conditions (temperature, weather, air quality, humidity, UV index, insects, frost bite)
    • accessibility to adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) and student hydration before, during and after physical activity
    • previous training and fitness level
    • length of time and intensity of physical activity
  • Students must be made aware of ways to protect themselves from environmental conditions (e.g., use of hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, personal water bottles, insect repellent, appropriate clothing)

›  Helpful Resources

 

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