1.5 million water bottles saved from refills

The 68 water bottle refill stations at the Loop and Lincoln Park campuses have been used collectively more than 1.5 million times since Jan. 1: a milestone in DePaul’s sustainable mission and testament to the growing participation in energy conservation.

According to National Geographic, Americans purchase 29 billion water bottles every year; 2 million tons of which end up in landfills.

In 2009, the College Sustainability Report Card, sponsored by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, gave DePaul an overall sustainability rating of a D+. In 2010, DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., assembled the Sustainability Initiative Task Force (SITF) as a team to combat DePaul’s low sustainability rating as a university. The SITF refined the Vincentian mission as one with “a heightened moral sensitivity to the global impact of resource consumption and environmental degradation.”

Shortly after the SITF was established, the DePaul Student Government Association added the Sustainable Initiatives Committee (SIC) to its ranks, and Alex Moree, 2012 graduate and Sustainability senator, initiated the water bottle refill station project.

The stations, provided by Elkay Commercial Products, are motion-activated stations that fill bottles approximately three times faster than traditional water fountains and filter the water to enhance taste and quality.

The refill stations’ integration on campus has been successful, targeting high traffic areas and prompting students to reuse bottles rather than purchase and throw them away.

A plastic 20-ounce water bottle purchased at the Bean in the Schmidt Academic Center was found to cost $1.82 after taxes. The 1.5 million refills at the water bottle stations thus saved students approximately $2,730,000 that would have otherwise been spent on plastic water bottles.

Since its rating in 2009, DePaul has notably improved. In 2011, DePaul’s overall rating improved to a C+, with an A in climate change and energy and an A in green building.

Jonathan Eiseman, senior Environmental Studies major and current Sustainability senator, believes “the more (water bottle refill stations) we can have, the better.” Eiseman said Loyola University and others have gone so far as to forbid selling plastic water bottles on campus.

To Eiseman, Loyola’s strategy is an effective means to force students into using reusable water bottles; however, the complete elimination of water bottles at DePaul could cause problems to community members in need who frequently receive water bottles from the community kitchen.

Though DePaul has taken a successful step towards sustainability, improvements are constant, particularly in achieving universal support from students in reusing water bottles. Eiseman coined his own phrase for students to remember and follow: “Drink local, Act Global.”