The physical world in which we live is finite as are the resources. As responsible citizens of this world we are compelled to care for it and to conserve resources. Water is limited, and how we use it not only impacts on the availability of this resource, but also pollution.

Not using bottled drinking water is one way we can contribute to a sustainable environment. Furthermore if we educate children to drink water other than bottled water, we contribute further to the well-being of our planet. Although bottled water comes in recyclable plastic bottles less than half of these end up being recycled. What is not recycled ends up as landfill, or in our waterways as unsightly pollution.

Schools can play an important role in educating their students about the effects of using bottled water, and providing alternatives. Some schools have taken the initiative by banning the sale of bottled water and by providing water coolers from which students can refill their own water bottles. Tap water, especially if it is filtered, is at least as safe if not safer than bottled water to drink.  If students are provided with easily accessible drinking water other than bottled water they will use it. It is a small step but an important one – sustainability in the school environment needs to be practised for students to take it seriously

Furthermore they could research the process involved in manufacturing the plastic bottles, creation of the water bottle labels, and transporting the water to its point of sale. It is not the plastic bottles alone that pollute our environment, but also the supply chain which consumes energy and thereby produces greenhouse gases. Tap water has one percent the environmental impact of bottled water. Our students have a lifetime to live, and are receptive to being responsible citizens in a world which is increasingly populated and whose resilience is being tested to the limit.

Irrigation of playing fields is another area in which schools are becoming increasingly responsible. Catching rainwater in underground water tanks and using this to water the gardens and to irrigate playing fields demonstrates to our students that we are taking the issue of water usage seriously. Australia is known for its unpredictable rainfall – this is one way schools can reduce the impact on town water and provide more flexibility in the dryer months.

Irrigation and Water Storage at your school could be researched by your students to understand how the School is taking on the challenge of being ‘green’. For example students could analyse the how much water is used to irrigate playing fields and the different requirements in summer and winter, the financial returns on investing in water tanks, and the environmental impact of using tank water rather than town water.

Developing a Sustainability Policy in your School is an important step in creating a framework for the implementation of initiatives. Banning bottled water and providing an option, is inexpensive and easily implemented. It would encourage students to take more responsibility, especially if they contributed to the creation and implantation of the School’s Sustainability Policy.

About the Author

PhD in European Languages and Cultures (specialising in Literary Translation) Department of International Studies Macquarie University