by Kelly Rogge, KCKCC
As students, faculty and staff begin filtering onto the Kansas City Kansas Community College main campus for the start of a new semester, they may notice some new, more eco-friendly additions to the hallways.
The college recently purchased hydration stations at the request of the KCKCC Sustainable Environments Committee.
So far, four have been installed – one in the administration hallway, one in the Wellness Center, one in the KCKCC Field House and one in the science hallway. More will be installed as time and funds become available. Each hydration station costs between $500 and $1,000 with the goal of decreasing the amount of plastic bottles used on a daily basis throughout the main campus.
“We chose this effort for several reasons,” said Penny Mahon, chair of the Sustainable Environments Committee and the media-reference librarian in the Learning Commons. “It did not require a great amount of planning, approval or funding, but it does make a big forward step. Many people on campus have requested filtered water due to the taste and-or health benefits, so in obtaining the stations we are able to provide this service as well as make the college more sustainable by reducing the amount of disposable plastic water bottles.”
Hydration stations provide the opportunity for individuals to fill their own refillable water bottles with filtered water – a more sustainable option to purchasing disposable plastic water bottles. A bottle counter is located on each station showing the number of plastic water bottles saved by refilling reusable bottles at the station.
“People have been very positive about the machines,” Mahon said. “They are being used as well – the one in the Wellness Center already has had more than 2,500 uses.”
According to the International Bottled Water Association, in 2016 “bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the United States,” representing more than 9 billion gallons of bottles each year. However, only one in five plastic water bottles are recycled. In addition buying bottled water is an expensive habit. A gallon’s worth of single-serve bottled water costs almost $9.50 – nearly 2,000 times the price of tap water.
“Producing a plastic water bottle requires three times the amount of water than it does to fill it. Liquids are very heavy, so transporting bottled water uses a lot of fuel, and 17 million barrels of oil are required annually to produce plastic bottles (the equivalent of fueling a million cars),” she said. “Chemicals can leach from the bottles into the water itself, especially if the bottle becomes hot at any point in the process. Finally, most tap water is more heavily tested and regulated than bottled water even before filtering.”