The Community Environmental Council has installed 10 refill stations on local elementary, junior high, high school and college campuses since the beginning of 2010 and is reporting that students have used the stations 137,887 times as of March 20 — dramatically reducing their use of disposable plastic water bottles.
CEC launched its “Rethink the Drink” campaign in January 2010, installing six refilling stations at Santa Barbara High (two units), Santa Barbara Junior High, Franklin Elementary (two units, also serving Adelante Charter School), Montecito Union Elementary and the Westmont College gym. The refill stations dispense cold, filtered water with both a regular water fountain spout and a quick-fill mechanism, and electronically display the number of times they’ve been used.
Schools added during the current school year include Adams Elementary, Monroe Elementary, Harding University Partnership School and Cleveland Elementary. A grant from the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation will add the Hope District’s three elementary schools and La Cuesta Continuation High School during the summer of 2012.
All schools are reporting a dramatic reduction in plastic water bottle and cup usage. Prior to the project, a waste audit at Adams Elementary showed that students, faculty and staff were using (and throwing away) 250 single-use water bottles per week. Since installing a refill station, they use fewer than 20 per week. Over the course of a school year, that’s the equivalent of going from more than 10,000 bottles to less than 900.
“The students and staff at Monroe School are very excited to have a water refill station in our cafeteria,” Principal Celeste Darga said. “Everyone is using it daily, and we are saving 500 water bottles and 2,000 cups a month. Students feel like they are truly making a difference in preserving the planet — one cup at a time. At Monroe School we are, ‘Rethinking the Drink’ every day!”
To encourage the students to use the refill stations, CEC and its project funders distributed reusable stainless steel canteens to all students and staff at participating elementary schools and did targeted distributions at the junior high and high schools.
In addition, CEC staff has appeared at five all-school assemblies and visited more than 10 classrooms to educate the student bodies about the negative health and environmental impacts of bottled water. These impacts include:
» The production and transportation of bottled water is very energy intensive. More than 17 million barrels of oil each year are used to bring bottled water to our stores — enough to fuel 1 million vehicles for a year.
» Bottled water is not safety-tested as often as tap water, and can cost up to 10,000 times the price of local tap water.
“Despite being recyclable, most bottled water is consumed on-the-go, and fewer than 30 percent of the bottles are recycled,” Rethink the Drink program manager Kathi King said. “The rest take up disproportionate space in our landfills or end up as trash in storm drains and watersheds. Americans are throwing away more than 2.5 million of these bottles per hour.”
— Kathi King is the Rethink the Drink manager for the Community Environmental Council.