Schools are declaring their premises BYO(W)B- bring your own water bottle- with the help of water bottle fill stations. Also called hydration stations, these units retrofit to existing drinking water fountains to allow users to fill their water bottles. Schools have become particularly interested in the technology because it will enable their students and faculty access to a sugar-free drink alternative that is germ-free, waste-free, and lead-free!
Anytime you start a project that seems entirely out of your wheelhouse; the first smart step is to ask someone who has already done it. Purchasing water bottle fill stations is no exception. Where to start? Is it worth it? Who will help? How can we pay for it? But, how do you find someone who has completed a hydration station project from start to finish…don’t worry, we know a gal!
World, meet Heidi Paul:
Can you tell us who you are, what school you are from, and what your role is in the school?
Heidi Paul, Magnificat High School Science teacher, Student Sustainability Team coordinator and School Sustainability Chair.
What inspired you to install water bottle fill stations in your school?
Student Sustainability wanted to promote more reusable water bottle use throughout the school. We had one water bottle refill station in the cafeteria and wanted to make it easy for people to continue using their own bottles. We retrofitted all water fountains with a refill spigot and purchased one water bottle refill station.
Were your students enthusiastic about the project and did they participate?
The Student Sustainability Team came up with the idea and the rest of the school was behind it. Now the students do not have to go all the way to the cafeteria for refills!
Did you host fundraising events to contribute to the financing of the units?
The Student Sustainability Team arranged for three ‘dress down days” which students paid $2 to not wear the school uniform. All money raised went right to converting water fountains and purchasing one more water bottle refill station with a “plastic bottles saved” counter.
What are the top three benefits you are seeing?
The top three benefits include more reusable water bottles being used at the school, less disposable water bottle sales, and less half-used disposable water bottles left around the school.
Do you have any advice to offer to other facilities just beginning to explore the idea of installing fill stations?
They are well utilized- I would suggest that it pays to pay for the sturdier brands.
Is there anything you would like to add?
The water bottle refill stations and water fountain conversions last year were the first step in a two-year project of eliminating disposable water bottle sales on campus. We had set up all the stations in order to facilitate an easier transition to this year’s elimination of disposable water bottles.
I met Heidi at a training event for the Cuyahoga County Master Recycler Program. She talked about how to instill healthy earth habits in school settings. She has led her sustainability team through recycling and compost projects. Her motto is to allow the students to take the reins while she gently guides the direction of their chosen initiative. Kudos Heidi, keep up the good work!
Water bottle fill stations were an excellent choice for Heidi’s team as Elkay, a top supplier has reported that their model alone has saved 4,208,988,517 plastic bottles from being used. This waste-free option makes an excellent project for student sustainability clubs and campus-wide, earth-friendly initiatives. To help we have compiled two ideas for financing-grants and fundraising.
Students will not have to wait in line to fill their water bottles; the average fill time for a water bottle is 5- seconds! The system works touch-free when a bottle is placed near the sensor it begins to fill, and when the bottle is taken away, it automatically stops. There is also a safety feature that shuts the flow off after 20 seconds. These systems come with a one year warranty and require minimal maintenance other than wiping them down with soapy water.
The water supplied by hydration stations is filtered to exceed the standard set by NSF/ANSI 53 certification requirements. The carbon filters also eliminate the taste of chlorine and add a fresh, crisp quality to your drinking water. Filters can be easily replaced and can be used for up to 3000 gallons, to put that in perspective, it is the same as 20,000 water bottles!
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