Photo Courtesy Jonathan Abboud
In response to the increase of environmental awareness over recent years, University of California Santa Barbara groups have found a positive way to treat the issue of excessive plastic waste by adding “hydration stations” all across campus. In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles, the Environmental Affairs Board, The Green Initiative Fund and the Coastal Fund have awarded over $15,000 towards the implementation of these hydration stations as a way to keep students healthy and plastic off of the coast.
According to Lauren Barnum, the secretary of the UCSB Green Campus Program Alliance to Save Energy and a second-year environmental studies major, a hydration station, is essentially a water fountain that has been renovated with a reverse osmosis water filter. Reverse osmosis is a process that is commonly used in commercial filtration. To break down the process, chemistry.about.com describes it as “a semipermeable membrane with fresh water on one side and a concentrated aqueous solution on the other side. If normal osmosis takes place, the fresh water will cross the membrane to dilute the concentrated solution. In reverse osmosis, pressure is exerted on the side with the concentrated solution to force the water molecules across the membrane to the fresh water side.”
The new fountains offer filtered water and reverse osmosis water to students for free, and reduce the cost of energy in water fountains by not requiring the energy-inefficient chillers needed in standard fountains. For the convenience of locating them all over campus, they will be colored blue.
This new alternative is an original approach to minimizing plastic consumption and wasting dollars on expensive brand name water bottle companies, which is a costly manufacturing process. The dated water fountains that run with chillers are known to use more energy, and by replacing them with the reverse osmosis filters, the amount of energy wasted is also reduced. The program aims to provide clean and tasty water to students for free, while eliminating all the excess plastic.
The appeal of the stations primarily come from the fact that the water will be provided free of charge, and simultaneously fights the ever-growing crisis of pollution. All students have to provide is a reusable container to stay hydrated. Each unit will have a choice of two different water fountains- one lever for filtered water, and one lever for reverse osmosis.
Implementation of these new systems will begin this summer, once the newly ordered filters arrive for installation. By summer, a total of 22 hydration stations with the appropriate paint and indication stickers will be mapped for students’ ease of access. By Fall 2012, there will be notifications sent to the student body as installation is completed, with information on where to find these hydration stations. There will also be an official press release and an educational campaign explaining what these hydration stations are and what benefits using them will produce.
The key figures involved with the Hydration Station project include Executive Officer of the Department of Geography Mo Lovegreen and Barnum, who believes that the transformation of these units will cause a significant impact on the community and university.
“The hydration stations project gives students a chance to have a personal connection to the environment and community by reducing the amount of waste and keeping our coast unpolluted,” she said. “The elimination of plastic water bottles is a new idea that hasn’t been explored before.”