Gabriella Carrier and Celeste Digiovanni held the launch on World Water Day. Photo: Parker Townes.
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H2Ottawa brings reusable water bottles to campus vending machines

This week, skip the can of Coke and buy an aluminum water bottle from the vending machine instead. For the same price you would pay for any other bottled drink, Celeste Digiovanni is bringing reusable water bottles to campus vending machines as a part of her thesis project.

A Toronto native, Digiovanni came to the University of Ottawa to complete her masters in sociology, and found it odd that nowhere on campus sold water. After interviewing the U of O Office of Campus Sustainability for a project, she learned that the sale of water was banned on campus in 2010, as the school’s sustainability measures take the stance that water is a human right and should not be sold.

This led her to team up with the sustainability office to launch H2Ottawa, a campaign seeking to educate and inform students about access to water in a practical way.

“The reason we got rid of bottled water in the first place is the university spends a lot of money to make sure our water fountains are in working order, the City of Ottawa spends a lot of money to make sure our water is potable, so … we didn’t want to sell that resource back to students,” she said.

“(H2Ottawa) just keeps those principles in mind but it gives students an access point.”

The bottles themselves are both 100 per cent recyclable and reusable but are only meant for water. Digiovanni explained that the campaign launched on World Water Day to help promote conversation around some of the issues related to water.

“There’s microplastics being found in the bottles, they’re not the best for your health, they’re not the best for your pocket, so why don’t we do something like this to raise all of those issues and get people talking.”

Digiovanni says she got a lot of help from the university for the self-funded project, with support from various faculties, and funding from the Faculty of Social Sciences, as well as branding for the bottles by the university’s marketing team, and having them printed at the Makerspace.

Gabriella Carrier, a fourth-year environmental economics and public policy student at the U of O also helped with the launch representing the Office of Campus Sustainability.

“Being environmentally friendly or sustainability in general is sometimes seen as the less convenient option,” she said. “When people don’t see a water bottle in the vending machine, but they want water, they’ll maybe cave and get a pop just because they want the bottle. I think this is a great resource for people who actually just want water.”

She encourages students to “try and be conscious of the packaging we use, from our food items, to the things we buy,” explaining, “if you can make an option that’s compostable or reusable, make a little extra effort because it pays off.”

The bottles are being sold in vending machines starting March 26 for three dollars, and are currently branded to represent the Faculties of Education, Law, Social Science, Engineering, and Telfer, as well as the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, and the Office of Campus Sustainability.