Hydration Stations - Clark University

Hydration Stations - Success in Sustainability

 

Background  

Clark University, established in 1887, is located in what is known as “the heart of New England,” Worcester, Massachusetts. There are roughly 3,300 students enrolled both in undergraduate and graduate programs that are enriched in the University’s motto of “Challenge Convention. Change Our World.” Clark’s passion for sustainability demonstrates their motto perfectly by having courses in the curriculum centered around sustainability, multiple clubs and organizations creating awareness for the cause and programs put in place to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. Listed in the Princeton Review’s 2014 Guide to 332 Green Colleges, Clark University is making major strides to equip their campus with the most environmentally friendly products to better not only the environment, but the students and faculty that call Clark their home.
 
The Challenge

 
Even with the University having deep roots in sustainability, there is still an overuse and purchase of bottled water. These bottles of water are not only harming the environment when they are not recycled but the whole process of creating these bottles is destructive to the environment. Rebecca Liebman, Founder of Take Back the Tap at Clark, said there is “no positive aspect of a bottle’s life cycle.” Because of this, the ultimate goal for the Clark University Sustainability Collaborative and Eco-Reps is to reduce the use and purchase of bottled water as much as possible. Clark University and East Coast Filter, a Massachusetts based comany, partnered to accomplish this goal.

 

Some options were brought up to help fix the issue of disposable bottle usage and were also tested. A few of the different options were individual faucet-mounted water purifiers in the dorm rooms and stand-alone water coolers, but both of these options would not help the campus long term due to costs, maintenance with installation and upkeep and accessibility

 In connection with getting rid of bottled water on campus, the Clark Sustainability Collaborative and the Eco-Reps had the difficult task of changing the way the students staff, and faculty thought about their habits in bottle consumption. For those who  thought that buying and using bottled water was easier and more practical, their eyes needed to be opened to different options so there could be an established change of habit. Jenny Isler, the Sustainability Coordinator at Clark, described the situation, “We wanted to make the unfamiliar occurrence into the familiar normal.”

The Solution
         
Each year at Clark, a small portion of student tuition is put towards student-run programs. Liebman was granted a portion of that money through the Student Sustainability Fund, to go towards their goal of reducing bottled water usage and supporting campus sustainability. “Hydration  Stations” we ultimately installed. These stations are a combination of standard water fountains and a reusable bottle filling area with filtered water. Each station has a counter that measures each 16oz. dispensed as one bottle and displays how many of these bottles have been eliminated from waste.
              
Each station, located in prominent areas around campus, had additional filters installed to further purify the water and also as a backup if something were to happen to the main water supply. But the most important aspect of having these filtered water filling stations is to preserve resources while still supplying consistency in the quality of water given out to each person. That way, no matter what time of day or location that the Hydration Station is being used, the water will always taste the same and have the same good quality.

A portion of the money that was earned and matched also went towards high quality reusable bottles for students, faculty and staff to purchase with the message “Take Back the Tap at Clark.” Making these sought after bottles available to the Clark Community with the message to reduce bottle usage really helped promote the message that refilling these bottles is much better than buying new disposable bottles every time.  
                                 
The Result

Since this system has been in place on campus over the past year, there has been an overall positive reaction to the “Hydration Stations.” There has been no pushback on the quality or taste of the water and students seem to be using their reusable water bottles often. Based on the number of bottles listed on each of the counters, the number of bottles that have been eliminated around the campus shows that the Hydration Stations have been successful in helping to achieve their goal.

With an additional initial investment of $287.61 per station for the housings, prefilters, and carbon filters, each station only needs to changeout the filters twice a year. This is more cost effective than using the preinstalled unit that comes standard in the Hydration Station which needs to be changed frequently. The ease of use and maintenance with these stations and filters creates an ideal situation for the University.

Due to the success that the Hydration Stations have created in helping to eliminate as much use of water bottles as possible thus far, the University is looking to install more of these stations around campus. “An increase in the number of water fountains on campus is more than a great way to be eco-friendly: it is what Clarkies actually want” wrote Sarah Cramer in the University Newspaper, The Scarlet.

As the success of the Hydration Stations continues to grow with the current community, the importance of reducing disposable water bottle usage will be passed down to future Clark generations. At East Coast Filter, we are extremely happy to be a part of this change that will better the environnment and community. We continue to look forward to partnering with Clark to help accomplish and expand their goals in reducing plastic bottle usage by supplying them with the quality filters that they use in these sucessful Hydration Stations.
 



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