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Water bottles. They’re used by millions around the world, myself included. They’re easy to obtain and convenient to carry around so why wouldn’t people use them day to day? But have you ever thought of the effects it can have on the environment constantly using water bottles? With climate change becoming a concern as of recently, it is in people’s best interest to take action towards green initiatives to better the chances of saving the environment. The United States spends the most money on bottled water as “Americans spent approximately $21.7 billion” in 2011 (King, et al. 192). As the largest consumers it is most likely that we contribute to the most plastic which ends up in the oceans or the pollution that comes from the bottles when incinerated. On average, community colleges are sized at 7,681 students (communitycollegereview.com). Now imagine how many students in total there are all throughout California itself. There are many ways to implement green and sustainable choices and one way college campuses can do that is by installing water refill stations to decrease the amount of water bottle usage.

Most single use plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) however they can also be made with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and polycarbonate (PC) (Liberatore 68). Many of these water bottles end up in landfills such as 1.8 billion pounds per year (Liberatore 69). They aren’t the most biodegradable either as some can take up to 1000 years to decompose on their own (Arnold and Larsen 2006). If college students were to each buy a one liter water bottle for each day “during a 180-day school year, they would be contributing to the release of approximately 192 pounds of carbon dioxide”(King, et al. 205). When PET bottles are incinerated, they produce toxic byproducts which includes but is not limited to chlorine gas and ash containing metal such as antimony (Arnold and Larsen 2006)(Liberatore 68). Now imagine the effects that would take place if the use of plastic bottles were reduced. Reusing bottles by refilling them with water stations can help. 

Not all plastic bottles are recycled properly. This can be due to how not all students know how to recycle properly (King, et al. 202). According to Emily Arnold and Janet Larsen, “86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter (Arnold and Larsen 2006). The 86 percent of water bottles can be linked with the “at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons” out in the ocean (Eriksen, et al. 7). This is leading to marine life being directly affected by plastic through ingestion and entanglement (Eriksen, et al. 2). Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition or SEAPLEX has done studies in the depths of the North Pacific Ocean showed that the fish which lived there “ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12000 to 24000 tons per year” (24). Not only are they ingesting plastic but they are adapting to living with it (“Plastic Trash” 2012). For example, “sea skaters have exploited the influx of plastic garbage as new surfaces for their eggs” which is causing their eggs to rise in densities (“Plastic Trash” 23). Promoting green initiatives towards students on campus can help make the possibility of restoring marine life back to how it should be into a reality. 

As mentioned before, on average, about 7000 students attend each community college (communitycollegereview.com). Green and sustainable thinking should be encouraged upon campus. More and more universities are taking action into becoming sustainable campuses (Coy, et al. 49). Water refill stations can promote students into reusing their water bottles or even bringing their own metal/glass bottles to fill up. These stations are free to use and provide clean drinking water which students will see as a benefit for them. It isn’t just limited towards students as it can be used by faculty as well. Placing a recycling bin next to the station can also increase proper recycling habits. Encouraging these kinds of behaviors may lead to students gaining a sense of commitment to work for a better environment not only at school but out of it as well (Coy, et al. 2013). For these kinds of projects to work, “sustainability administrators may benefit from better understanding their students views on environmental issues”(Coy, et al. 54). Now the question is how much would installing these water refill stations cost?

On average, water bottle stations cost between $500-$1500 per unit (becausewater.com). That is not including the rate of how much who is contracted to install each unit will charge which varies on city and contractor. Each of the units require filters which average about $230-250 for a three-pack, however the filters typically last for six months each (becausewater.com). With it all taken into consideration, it would average out to about $2500 to install one unit and maintain for a year. True, it would cost the school a couple of thousands to install multiply on each campus, however, students and faculty members would greatly benefit from it. It’s an easier, cheaper, convenient and clean way to obtain water. It would also help reduce the use of plastic water bottles which benefits the environment. Another factor to consider, staying hydrated links to better mental performance (becausewater.com). 

In conclusion, installing water refill stations is a great way to make the campus into a sustainable one. Tons of plastic water bottles are used daily and sure these water refill stations aren’t going to end that, but it will help lessen the amount that ends up in the ocean or landfills across the country. Even if water bottles are recycled, such as incinerating them, the release carbon dioxide that comes from them is a great amount. The main goal with the stations would be to reduce that use and amount and encourage to look into more green initiatives. Students and staff would have clean, free water available and who’s to say that water isn’t important for one’s health.

Works Cited

  • Arnold, Emily, and Janet Larsen. “Bottled water: Pouring resources down the drain.” Earth Policy Institute 2 (2006).
  • Coy, Anthony E., et al. “Commitment to the environment and student support for “green” campus initiatives.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 3.1 (2013): 49-55.
  • Eriksen, Marcus, et al. “Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 12, Dec. 2014, pp. 1–15. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111913.
  • King, Anthony, et al. “Behaviors, Motivations, Beliefs, and Attitudes Related to Bottled Water Usage at Weber State University.” Journal of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, vol. 91, Jan. 2014, pp. 191–211. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=121115554&site=ehost-live.
  • Liberatore, Stephanie. “Health Wise.” Science Teacher, vol. 78, no. 4, Apr. 2011, pp. 68–69. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=59868510&site=ehost-live
  • “Plastic Trash Altering Ocean Habitats.” Science Teacher, vol. 79, no. 5, Summer 2012, pp. 22–24. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=76562571&site=ehost-live.
  • http://becausewater.com/ultimate-guide-fundraising-water-bottle-filling-stations-schools/
  • https://www.communitycollegereview.com/average-college-size-stats/national-data