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Campus Hydration Stations

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Tap water is cleaner, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than bottled water, yet the average American consumes 166 bottles of bottled water a year. With more than 28,000 students, faculty, and staff, on campus, that means that the PSU community alone is likely responsible for the consumption of around 4,648,000 bottles of water each year. Because it takes 3 times as much water to produce any given amount of water that is bottled, that's the equivalent of 13,944,000 bottles of water being consumed by PSU students, staff, and faculty each year. And with many of these discarded plastic bottles ending up in the waste stream instead of being recycled, that's tons and tons of plastic ending up in landfills and floating in the ocean.

In the fall of 2008, PSU's Environmental Club set out to drastically reduce these numbers.

So the club took advantage of the call for students to apply for funding from the $25 million granted to PSU from the Portland-based James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation in the 2008-2009 school year. When its proposal was accepted, the Environmental Club received a $7,000 grant to fund a Take Back the Tap Campaign at PSU.The goals of the campaign were to raise awareness and educate about water sustainability issues and to reduce the consumption of bottled water on campus.

Environmental Club coordinator Lisa Meersman headed up the project, starting with a survey of 500 students to learn why students chose bottled water over tap water. Survey answers showed that students drank bottled water because they didn't think that tap water on campus was clean enough and that many students didn't own a reusable water bottle.

Using this information, Meersman and other club coordinators decided to purchase reusable Klean Kanteen water bottles at a wholesale price. These stainless steel bottles were selected because they are bisphenol A-free. Also known as BPA, bisphenol A is a compound used to make polycarbonate plastics and that can leach into the water in plastic water bottles. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, and concentrated levels of BPA have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, liver enzyme abnormalities, and increased risk of cancer.

The Environmental Club sold the reusable water bottles at a 60% discount of their retail value during the 2008-2009 school year. The profits were then used to convert a drinking fountain in the first floor lobby of Smith Memorial Student Union into a bottle "refill station." The refill station was also designed to be a center for community education on water issues. The project was completed in June of 2009.

The project was a success, and proved to be so popular with the campus that the Environmental Club was able to collaborate with Facilities and Planning to install seven high-tech filtration stations on campus. These stations are located on the first floor of Smith Memorial Student Union, the first and third floor of Cramer Hall, and the second, third, and fourth floor of Neuberger Hall.