Everyone probably knows the ubiquitous drinking water fountain found throughout schools, gyms, libraries, museums and any number of buildings we enter on a daily basis. It’s funny to think that the basic design of these fountains (or “bubblers”) has not really changed since its development by Kohler in 1889. But that classic design has not kept up with our changing world. Today, it seems water fountains are used more to fill up water bottles that people bring with them places, rather than drinking directly from the fountain.
Students in an environmental group made up of students from several high schools in Fayette County in Kentucky noticed this, and had an innovative idea after seeing so many of their classmates refilling their plastic water bottles up each day. Instead of water fountains in their schools, they decided they wanted to install “reusable water bottle refill stations.” They thought this would encourage students to use reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones, which continue to hit our landfills each year. In addition to the environmental reason for the project, the students also referenced tap water as a healthier option for hydration than sugary sodas and juices.
After placing these new stations in the cafeterias and other high traffic areas in their schools, the students saw immediate results. In just the first week, 3,600 containers were filled across their schools (as tracked by a nifty meter on the fountain), and the usage of the stations has been increasing each month since February. By making a small change in their schools, there will be a huge impact on the amount of disposable plastic bottles being used, many of which could end up in landfills.
Imagine that if for every place you remember seeing a water fountain throughout our life, instead there is now a reusable water bottle refill station. We could cut the 50 billion plastic water bottles that end up in landfills each year in half through a simple innovative idea. It is said that plastic bottles take up to 700 years to decompose in our landfills. Clearly, if those bottles no longer existed, our environment would be a lot better off.
As we head into Drinking Water Week, these refill stations are an interesting concept to consider making a push for. Of course, the more demand that exists, the more likely it is to happen. With that being said, I encourage each of you to choose a reusable bottle instead of disposable plastic. It is a simple switch that has a lasting impact!