May 8, 2009

Lafayette Becomes Greener One Water Bottle at a Time

Seven water refilling stations installed on campus; four more expected during summer
Inspired by students, Lafayette has installed seven “refilling stations” in high student traffic buildings to fill reusable Nalgene water bottles and decrease the number of disposable water bottles discarded on campus. The “refilling stations” are actually water coolers that have been retrofitted to fill water bottles more easily with cool, filtered water. Fountains in four other buildings are scheduled to be adapted this summer.

“I think the water bottle refilling stations are great,” says Daniella Colon ’10. “They’re convenient and easy to use, and fill my Nalgene faster than a regular water fountain. Having these stations shows students that the College is interested in promoting the use of refillable bottles. Even students who don’t own Nalgenes may refill a disposable bottle instead of going out of their way to buy something to drink.”

“People love the filling stations,” adds Jenn Bell ’11, president of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP). “I’d say most students use reusable bottles and the filling stations make it much more convenient to refill them.”

Last August, Lafayette’s incoming Class of 2012 received reusable BPA-free Nalgene water bottles during “Live Green Lafayette” new student orientation, which also included planting corn on the Quad earlier in the summer to tie into the summer reading, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The water bottles underscored that individual actions can add up to significant environmental impacts. New students were invited to ask themselves, “What can I do?” and join faculty, students, and staff who had signed an environmental pledge to examine their individual carbon footprint and make voluntary small changes in their energy and water consumption.

The water bottle project grew out of Lafayette’s 2007 Technology Clinic. Tech Clinic is a hands-on course that brings together students from different majors to help solve real-world problems, in this case, reducing Lafayette’s carbon footprint. Students spent a year investigating environmentally-friendly alternatives to the College’s practices in a course led by Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology, and Will Dohe of R+D Architecture in Easton. Among the many suggestions from the students were to create a staff position overseeing sustainability on campus, expand recycling, and establish water filling stations to replace the sale of plastic bottles of water.

During spring 2008, other students in an engineering course led by Art Kney, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, investigated whether students would actually use refillable bottles, including whether the quality of the water would affect students’ usage. The class designed a cost effective system that could be retrofitted to existing water coolers.

“The class focused on examining whether or not students would use the bottle filling stations and in what ways we could make this a more attractive option,” says Colon. “We examined different filters and conducted a water taste test to determine the type of filter we would use, and if it would be comparable to bottled water. We also selected water fountains that were conveniently placed and could be easily converted into water bottle filling stations.”

“The experience provided my students and me a great opportunity to participate in meaningful community academic experience,” says Kney. “It is investments in cost-effective programs like the bottle-filling project that can play a huge role in education beyond the classroom. Programs like this one are very important as we strive to teach sustainable living and community connections in the current economically strapped economy.”

Two student groups, LEAP and the Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (SEES), have also been active in pushing for a greener campus, working on composting and community gardening, helping with the Corn on the Quad project, and exchanging incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Tom DeFazio, coordinator of chemical and environmental engineering labs, and Don Brinker, assistant supervisor of mechanical trades for plant operations, have been coordinating the installation of the water refilling stations around campus.

“I really enjoyed collaborating with the students on this project,” says DeFazio. “The team was presented with a real-world problem which required a lot of hands-on engineering. Overall, I think it was a great learning experience for them and the entire College community benefited from the results.”

Water refilling stations can currently be found on the third (main) floor of Acopian Engineering Center, first floor of Farinon College Center, the first floor of Hugel Science Center, second (main) floor of Oechsle Hall, and three locations in Kirby Sports Center. Retrofits are planned this summer for fountains in Pardee Hall, Kirby Hall of Civil Rights, Markle Hall, and either Skillman Library or Williams Center for the Arts.

posted in Academic News

tagged with