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Sustainability Makes Good Environmental and Economic Sense

By Sharon Chen
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At Cornell University, students are taking the lead when it comes to implementing sustainability efforts on their campus. Take Back the Tap, a student-led outreach campaign that spreads awareness about the harmful effects of plastic bottle usage on the environment, has installed water bottle fillers in five Cornell buildings with a high demand for water. The president of Take Back the Tap, Susan McGrattan, explained that while recycling is a better option than throwing bottles in the trash, it still remains an intensive process that is much less efficient than simply eliminating the use of disposable water bottles altogether.

By using the water bottle fillers, students hope to eliminate plastic waste pollution and reduce the costs associated with bottled water. Bottled water costs the campus community an estimated $640,000 per year, while the same volume of tap water would cost only $1,000 – by moving away from bottled water, the university is saving approximately half a million dollars a year.

As shown by these Cornell students, sustainability not only makes good environmental sense, but good economic sense as well. Pursuing greener measures on college campuses is a smart way to meet the climate change challenge..

Student Organization Adds Water Bottle Fillers to Five Buildings

Julia Greenberg | Cornell Sun | September 21, 2015

Since receiving a $20,000 grant from the Student Assembly’s Infrastructure Fund in Dec. 2014, Take Back the Tap — a student outreach campaign that aims to spread awareness about the harmful effects of plastic bottle usage on the environment — has installed water bottle fillers in five new buildings across campus over the summer.

As of April 2013, 33 water bottle fillers, which operate with motion sensors to fill water bottles, were installed in campus buildings that included Bailey Hall, Mann Library, Olin Library and Schwartz Performing Arts Center, according to a University inventory on bottle filling stations.

Students can find the new fillers in Barton Hall, Helen Newman Hall, Bartels Hall, Kennedy Hall and Teagle Hall that were installed over the summer, according to former Take Back the Tap president Alexa Bakker ’15.

Take Back the Tap’s current president Susan McGrattan ’17 said the installments this summer were concentrated in athletic buildings due to a high demand for water in these locations.

McGrattan added that the campaign hopes to install at least one or two more water bottle fillers if there are sufficient funds left over from the grant.

The Infrastructure Fund, which supported Take Back the Tap’s grant, was created to support student projects and initiatives that improve infrastructure or facilities on Cornell’s campus, according to the fund’s website.

In Olin Library alone, the nine water bottle fillers have saved at least over 521,230 bottles of water as of Sunday morning. The single water bottle filler by Goldie’s Cafe in the Physical Sciences Building has saved over 191,923 plastic bottles by Sunday morning.

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