By: Jaanvi Sachdeva ’21
Colgate University is currently home to 16 state-of-the-art Elkay water refill stations, and is on the path to installing more. This cleaner, more energy-efficient water experience is something that students have come to understand as part of their lives, but they have not been around forever.
The University has installed these water refill stations in several batches, with each new addition following student backing and request. In 2015, a refill station was installed in the renovated Cooley Science Library, and in 2016, four were installed on the first, third, fourth, and fifth floors of Case-Geyer. Many of these projects have been the direct result of SGA proposals that highlighted the essential role the stations could play in encouraging sustainable behavior and showcasing sustainable living at Colgate. Bryan Complex just received an Elkay water refill station thanks to a successful SGA proposal, and 113 Broad is expected to receive one before 2019.
Students have expressed that these stations significantly benefit their lives, as they promote both sustainable behaviors and regular hydration. “I think I drink much more water here [at Colgate] than I do at home, because every time I walk by one of those stations, I am reminded to fill my bottle up. At home if I’m thirsty, I just grab a plastic water bottle but I regularly use a reusable bottle while here,” said Jared Collins ’21.
The Elkay water refill stations leads to a wider acceptance and normalization of reusable water bottle use. This is important because last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38, leading to significant environmental harms. The Elkay water refill stations not only save money spent on disposable water bottles and add convenience to the lives of students, but also decrease waste associated with single-use bottle production and disposal.
While more widespread use of reusable water bottles by Colgate students has been encouraged by the Elkay water refill stations, there is still room for improvement. Perhaps the largest obstacle to reducing plastic waste is that many students do not feel comfortable drinking the tap water here and consequently opt to drink bottled water. One student reports, “It’s convenient to keep plastic bottles in the room, because I’m unsure about the quality of the tap water. It doesn’t taste as good as water from other places.” While Colgate’s tap water is safe to drink and is regularly tested for safety, the Elkay stations do provide students with another, better-tasting option to refill their bottles.
While Colgate is making great strides to encourage healthy, sustainable lifestyles and reduce waste, we can still do much more! If students are passionate about these issues, some outlets for these concerns might be talking to Commons leaders, seeking funding from various student groups, or simply putting their concerns in the public eye where decision-makers are aware of them. We encourage student participation in this conversation for greater sustainable living!
The locations of the current Elkay refill stations at Colgate can be viewed here: