Posts Tagged ‘reusable’

City of Vancouver supports public drinking water stations

December 14, 2010

The following article was written by Serena Calder (@serena_calder) and re-posted with the permission of Hilary Henegar (@granvillemag).  The piece originally appeared on Granville Online’s Eds. et. al. blog on August 30, 2010.

It’s a sunny afternoon and you’re walking along the Seawall when you realize you forgot your reusable water bottle. You’re thirsty, and faced with a choice: either stop at the concession stand up ahead to buy bottled water, or wander around nearby parks in search of a public drinking fountain that may or may not work.

Boosting public drinking fountains is one way Vancouver is helping to say “good-bye” to the plastic bottle

As the City of Vancouver works to phase out bottled water and raise awareness of the high quality of municipal tap water supplies, it confronts the challenges of increasing accessibility and awareness of public tap water sources, like drinking fountains.

A portable water fountain at the northeast corner of Commercial and Broadway. The City of Vancouver has added four more stations around town.

Sarah Messel, of the City’s engineering services department, said Vancouver has about 250 drinking fountains maintained by the Board of Parks, and about 25 maintained by the engineering department, but so far no convenient way for residents to locate them.

“Our goal is to have all the locations on our Vanmap and open data service,” Messel said, adding that this should be finished this summer.

Even if people knew where to find the fountains, the question remains whether or not people would use them. An April 2009 administrative report to the city services and budget committee notes many people perceive drinking fountains as dirty and unhygienic, and often used as a water source for dogs or by the homeless for bathing.

The inscription on the water fountain at Victory Square in Vancouver reads, "Donated to the Citizens of Vancouver by Mary Stewart, 1960."

But Kareece Goh, an Australian traveler, thinks that Vancouver’s public fountains and taps are great, especially because of Metro Vancouver’s water quality (called “the purest tap water in the world” by some).

“It tastes a lot better than the water back home,” she said. “I’ve been here for two and a half months and I’ve been drinking tap water all the time.”

Improving public perception is just one factor in encouraging increased tap water consumption. Currently, drinking fountains are turned off from November to April. In order to boost the role of drinking fountains in a move towards tap water reliance, Messel says the City is piloting two freeze-resistant water fountains that can function throughout winter, and installing little taps on the outside of buildings for residents to refill water bottles.

Messel is hopeful about these developments. “There is a need for fountains, but there is also a need for these taps,” she said. “I think that’s going to expand quite a bit.”

Water Bottles from China

November 30, 2010

Flickr / jeremylim

We recently had the opportunity to provide support to our local Tedx event here in Vancouver – by creating custom branded glass water bottles for the participants. They’re cool, they’re useful, and… they’re from China (as noted by @kimli on Delicious Juice Dot Com).

It’s the classic conundrum we face everyday in our business – working on sustainability within a global supply chain (more on our Code of Conduct in dealing with our supply chain at the end of the post).

Our key challenge in sourcing is facing diminishing capacity in local manufacturing. Drink-ware is especially prone to this. For example, we have yet to find a stainless steel water bottle made in North America, there are plenty of plastic bottles made here, just no stainless.

And guess what one of our top selling products is? Yup, stainless water bottles. That said, we’ve never looked for a domestic glass bottle supplier… but thanks to @kimli we will now (we’re always looking for local suppliers to help bring to market).

With drink-ware our main aim is to  get folks to kick the disposable habit (a bad habit as noted in Annie Leonard’s The Story of Bottled Water).  While we keep working on the supply side of things, we’re work with our clients to get folks out of single serve water.

Take Tedx Vancouver for example, last year FIJI water sponsored the event, and had their product out for grabs. From what I heard organizers got grief about it (refer back to the Story of Bottled Water if you’re still wondering why).

In making products to change behavior, cool helps – if people like the product, they use it  (we thought we’d do glass because it’s unique and different, just like Tedx even though rumor has it that glass has a bigger footprint than steel).

flickr / jeremylin

But I do want to dispel a key myth out there regarding the enviro-impacts of shipping product around the world. A lot of people we talk to assume there must be more emissions getting product from China than getting product from say… Toronto. Being in Vancouver, a port city, allows us to receive product by ocean freight vs. product being trucked across the country. And ocean freight is about 5.5x LESS environmental impact (in terms of efficiency) than the trucks that haul our goods across Canada. Here’s that concept applied to a bottle of wine from our friends at World Changing.

In short, sourcing products is tough and getting more local is an Idea Worth Spreading for sure. Check out our pals @locobc to check out their efforts to promote all things local. Interested in the standards we use in working with our supply chain? Check our Code of Conduct out or check out the work of the Fair Labor Association.

We got great feedback on the bottles – although I’m not sure we’d recommend glass for a venue with concrete floors in the future! Thanks to @kimli for keeping us on our toes.


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