Montreal

Marine biologist offers Montreal festivals an alternative to single-use water bottles

As part of a push to be more eco-friendly, Evenko has partnered with Montrealer Rachel Labbé-Bellas to allow Osheaga festival goers to bring empty, reusable water bottles and fill them up at her brainchild, The Green Stop.

The Green Stop is a water-refill station created by Montreal scientist-turned-entrepreneur Rachel Labbé-Bellas

Rachel Labbé-Bellas is a marine biologist whose disgust at finding so many microplastics in the ocean has turned her into an entrepreneur, building water stations to discourage Montrealers from buying single-use plastic bottles. (Submitted by Rachel Labbé-Bellas)

Planning on attending Osheaga in Montreal this summer? Bring along a reusable water bottle and fill it up as often as you'd like — for free.

You can do that now thanks to a local marine biologist and her determination to keep plastic out of the oceans.

This summer, Rachel Labbé-Bellas is unveiling her new water-refill stations at the summer festival — water-refill stations she's dubbed The Green Stop, designed to discourage people from using single-use plastic bottles and inspire environmental awareness.

Osheaga's promoter, Evenko, is launching a series of eco-friendly initiatives this year, and they include allowing people in with empty, reusable water bottles that they can fill up at The Green Stop — a project, says Labbé-Bellas, she hopes to expand to festivals and other events across the greater Montreal region.

"You've probably noticed there aren​​​​​​'t that many water fountains in Montreal," Labbé-Bellas, 32, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak recently.

"If there are, they're sitting off in a corner; they're quite dirty, and a lot of times, they don't work."

She says eventually, she hopes to offer more than just clean, fresh water.

Visitors to her Green Stop stations will one day be able to buy reusable bottles there, get sunscreen without toting around a single-use container and buy other concert necessities that don't create more waste.

The Green Stop stands nearly three metres tall and has six taps, allowing people to refill their water bottles rather than buy disposable water bottles. (Brendan Carberry)

Tapping into water supply

The hexagon-shaped station, she said, is a kiosk with six taps that provides access to Montreal's clean, free city water while reducing the lineups often seen at food trucks as people wait to pay something like $5 for a disposable bottle of water.

The portable stations can be rented and used in any public space, providing water at sporting venues, beaches or anywhere else people may need a drink.

Osheaga's promoters have been instrumental in helping her get the project off the ground, she said.

Although bottled water is a money-maker at such events, Evenko spokesperson Philip Vanden Brande says profit is not his company's primary goal.

"Environmental protection and the well-being of festival goers are priorities for Evenko and [are] a constant concern when planning all of our events," he said.

Demonstrating environmental responsibility

Measuring nearly three metres in height, each Green Stop station is topped by a large umbrella that's easy to spot through a crowd. Its high visibility makes it a great marketing tool for companies looking to demonstrate environmental responsibility, Labbé-Bellas said.

"We're trying to do something different," she said. "We're trying to send an environmental message and be an attractive water fountain that stands out — that really appeals to you and talks about plastic pollution."

She says it's a step above satiating the crowd's thirst with water-filled tanker trucks that take up space and need staff to operate.

Inspired by plastic 

Labbé-Bellas said she was inspired to find ways to reduce plastic pollution after going on an ocean expedition to trawl for plastic and finding the sea filled with floating microplastics — tiny fragments of broken-up plastics that often show up in the digestive tracts of marine life.

Rachel Labbé-Bellas says microplastics like these she pulled from the sea four years ago can be found throughout the ocean, affecting marine life. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

"I got home, and I just kind of woke up and thought, 'I have to build something'" to reduce single-use plastic, she said.

Working with festival organizers, she created a design that will be unveiled during the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Aug. 2.

She built one prototype at a co-working space called The Collective Lab and has two more to go. 

Now Labbé-Bellas is reaching out to the public for crowdfunding support.

"Our goal is to rent our stations to outdoor summer festivals, but imagine [The Green Spot] in parks, cities, hotels, sporting venues and beaches," her fundraising page says. 

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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