As April 21 marked the beginning of Earth Week on the Keene State College campus, it also marked the milestone of an achievement for some members of the community.
“What we have accomplished is — since they’ve been installed — we’ve averted over 400,000 bottles from being purchased and recycled and all of the energy involved in that,” Diana Duffy, coordinator of energy and administrative services said.
The 400,000-plus plastic bottles that have been saved from being purchased are all thanks to the bottle-filling stations that have been implemented into fifteen buildings across campus, according to Duffy.
“I think from a sustainability point of view, [the goal] was to encourage people to use their own bottles; to stop the madness of buying bottled water,” Duffy said.
Duffy continued, “So much of bottled water is tap water anyway, that is being shipped and trucked. The energy that we even spend just on moving water when we have pretty good water right here in Keene [is important].”
Campus Sustainability Officer Mary Jensen said she hopes this accomplishment will help to bring awareness of Keene’s own water consumption.
Jensen said, “I want people to be conscious of water in general. You know, we’ve got a huge drought going on in California still, and we’re using up aquifer water in other parts of the country quicker than it can be replenished. We can live without oil — we cannot live without water. We need to be more thoughtful and careful about the water that we use and how we use it.”
A major step in creating this awareness for those on campus are the bottle-fillers located throughout campus.
Relatively new, these bottle-fillers help to not only provide a healthier alternative than bottled water, but also reduce the number of plastic bottles that are continuously hurting the environment.
According to Jensen, Campus Ecology implemented the first on-campus bottle filler back in August of 2011, in hopes of creating a lasting legacy on the campus. Jensen said, “They [Campus Ecology] started talking about what their options were, and I was at another school where I saw one of those bottle-filling stations and suggested that as a legacy project.”
Jensen also noted the first bottle-filling station was completely paid for by Campus Ecology; a cost that typically runs from $1,000 to $1,200.
According to Jensen, many other residential halls have also followed suit, offering to cover the cost in hopes of getting a bottle-filler in their own buildings.
“I see students coming back from Walmart with cases of bottled water, and it’s ridiculous because the water in Keene is good,” Jensen said.
Jensen continued, “I hate bottled water because it’s expensive, it’s not tested as well, it’s bad for the environment and it creates litter.”
Bill Rymes, Supervisor of Plumbing and Heat Plant Operations, confirmed that KSC’s water supply is actually a much better option than others.
Rymes said, “We have great water in Keene. The water that comes into the campus buildings is from the city of Keene. It [the water] comes from two different sources: underground wells, and a reservoir in the next town over in Roxbury, New Hampshire. The water goes into a water treatment plant from the reservoir. So it goes through this whole process, then it goes in through all these machines and we filter it off with the final filtration and make sure it’s all good and clean. So, then people are using a healthier alternative which is, you know, reusable plastic bottles.”
Jensen said she hopes to bring awareness to students of KSC, an idea supported by many programs in the college.
Junior Michelle Luu said her professor speaks of the college’s green campus often.
“In my class right now [Global Environmental Change] we’ve talked about how they’re [KSC] trying to be aware and conscious of getting organic foods for the D.C.,” Luu said.
She continued to note that Keene is a city that makes a conscious effort to be more eco-friendly. She said, “The city does too. We’re talking in class how there’s bad smog in the winter, but Keene is trying to be more eco-friendly and healthier for the environment.”
Kristen Hunyadi, a senior political science major, acknowledges KSC’s efforts towards a green environment.
“I think we do more than a lot of colleges, I know the TDS building is super eco-friendly. And I think they do a good job at raising awareness,” Hunyadi said.
The idea that Keene, and even New England, is a very environmentally sound place to live is one that Jensen hopes students will realize during their years there.
Jensen said, “We’re really fortunate here in this part of the country and this part of the world; we have lots of water, so we’re not cautious about our water because we see it everywhere — we’ve got rivers, we’ve got lakes — it feels very rich in water. But you know we do have really good water here, and we want to encourage people to be drinking the water that’s available because it’s less expensive, it’s tested more frequently than bottled water is — drinking water is good for you, it’s a healthy thing to do.”
Jensen continued, “But people leave Keene and then go out into the wider world. I always feel like our job, especially in sustainability, is to educate students on what their behaviors are like so that when they go out into the world, they’ve got some know-how into how the rest of the world works.”
Alexa Ondreika can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.