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How a group of students led Brescia to ban plastic water bottle sales and become a Blue Community

Brescia University College, the all-women, Western affiliate of about 1,600 students, received their Blue Community designation last month after the school decided to ban all plastic water bottle sales on campus and recognized access to water as a basic human right.

University challenging other campuses to take the pledge after becoming first 'Blue campus in Ontario

Brescia student, Emma Maxwell holds a reusable, blue water bottle in support of Brescia becoming a Blue Community. The school received the designation last month after deciding to ban all plastic water bottle sales on campus and recognizing access to water as a basic human right. (Brescia University College)

It was a simple conversation that sparked a student community to dig deeper and do more for the environment. 

Clara Prentice, a second year student at Brescia University College, recalls her extensive discussion with Canadian Environmentalist and school chancellor Maude Barlow last year. 

Through stories about Barlow's experience as the United Nation's first senior adviser on water issues, Prentice was convinced she and her fellow classmates could do more for the environment, because while they are generations apart, the group of women share the same desire to at least leave this earth as they found it, if better isn't possible.   

"I remember rushing home that night, going on the Blue Community's website and just looking how to get the ball rolling," Prentice said.  

Prentice, who also acts as the environmental commissioner for the school's student council, rallied classmates and school leaders to embark on a journey that led to the school becoming the first university campus in Ontario, and just the second in the county, to receive a Blue Community designation from the Council of Canadians, a non-profit organization advocating for clean water, green energy and fair trade. 

Clara Prentice, a second year student at Brescia University College, said the students decided to become a Blue Community after a visit from Canadian Environmentalist, former chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Brescia chancellor Maude Barlow last year.  (Submitted by Clara Prentice)

The all-women Western affiliate of about 1,600 students received the designation last month after the school decided to ban all plastic water bottle sales on campus and recognize access to water as a basic human right.

"We're really proud [to receive this designation]," said Rhea Johnson, Brescia's acting vice principal and student director.

"Students really did a lot in advancing this. When we started to have meetings to talk about how to move this forward and why we wanted to pursue this ... our students quite explicitly stated, 'Why would we not?'"

The school is joining the City of London, which received Blue Community designation in March. To date, there are 78 Blue Communities around the world, including 47 in Canada. 

Brescia to prevent 20,000 water bottles from going to landfill

Prentice is thrilled to see the campus go "Blue," adding it was something that needed to happen. 

"Walking around campus, you do sadly see a lot of litter, a lot of trash on the side of the road, a lot of to-go containers ... It was just really disconcerting."

But now, the move to ban plastic water bottle sales, will save the school community from having to recycle approximately 20,000 bottles a year. 

"Although you may only be drinking one plastic water bottle once in a while, If there's seven billion people drinking just one bottle, that's still seven billion peoples' plastic going into the landfills," Prentice said. 

To help campus members transition, the Brescia University College Students' Council is funding a new water fountain that includes a water bottle filling station along with reusable water bottles for campus members.

Prentice hopes the recognition inspires other universities and organizations to strive to be more environmentally-conscious and even take on the challenge of becoming a Blue Community. 

"Although you might not think that your actions have any sort of consequence, you don't realize how small of a ripple can cause such a big wave," she said. 

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