Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Cotter, CSEP. Rebecca is the Owner of Water-on-Wheels, @wateronwhls on Twitter, an outdoor event planner and an Instructor of Event Planning at Humber College in Toronto, Canada. Water-on-Wheels provides mobile water refill stations as a means of accessing existing municipal tap water infrastructure and providing hydration solutions at special events.
The practice is called Bottled Water Free (BWF) and it is taking environmentalism and sustainability at special events to a whole new level.
In the event industry BWF is about eliminating the wasteful presence of commercially packaged single-use water bottles from an event and offering practical and environmentally-friendly onsite hydration solutions that use existing municipal tap water sources.
The responsibility of keeping event attendees hydrated is an ongoing challenge for event planners, especially those planning large conferences and public events. Coordinating water stations at a marathon or sporting event can result in significant waste where pouring water from bottles into cups is often required. Meanwhile locally, with the introduction of site-wide liquor licensing in Ontario in 2011, at many licensed festivals beer is more readily accessible than water presenting an array of health and safety concerns for coordinators.
For these reasons and others, many events across Ontario (and throughout North America) are choosing to encourage patrons to ‘bring-your-own-bottle’ and providing access to municipal tap water using water refill stations.
Municipalities Are Encouraging Events to Go Green by Offering Bottled Water Free (BWF) Solutions
In an ever increasing number of municipalities across Canada, the BWF concept runs deeper than the environmentally-conscious planning choices of individual event coordinators. More than 80 Canadian municipalities including: Halifax, Toronto, Yellowknife and Vancouver have imposed bottled water bans, by-laws, or minimization plans aimed at limiting the environmental impact of bottled water and de-commercializing access to water in these communities.
Canadian school boards and college and university campuses including the University of Winnipeg, the University of Ottawa and Ryerson University are also doing their part to eliminate commercially packaged water bottles from their schools and events. On-campus events including First Year Orientation at many BWF schools now include the provision of water refill stations to ensure students stay hydrated.
Providing event attendees with access to water refill stations can positively influence more than just an event’s environmental impact. One water refill station connected to a continuous-flow municipal tap water source such as a hose faucet or a fire hydrant can provide enough water to refill over 1,200 water bottles per hour. The provision of which can significantly decrease the number and severity of dehydration cases presenting at an event’s first aid and EMS stations, reduce waste management costs for litter picking, waste disposal and recycling charges, and add value to an event’s sponsorable assets. (Consider offering a sponsor-branded water refill station with sponsor-branded reusable bottles at your next event!)
Bottled Water Free events are emerging as an industry best practice in response to society’s expectation that event coordinators continuously evolve and improve their efforts to decrease event waste and provide sustainable alternatives. Water refill stations provide a practical solution to accessing existing hydration infrastructure at event sites and for bringing the water to the people; making blue the new green.