Refillable Water Bottle Usages Jumps

Susan Thwing
Release Date: 

Refillable water bottle usages jumps from 48 to 77 percent Water refill stations increase student awareness, use of refillable bottles

With more than 300 water refill stations across campus, and a program that gives incoming freshmen a free Planet Blue refillable water bottle, the use of refillable bottles is increasing dramatically on campus, according to Barbara Hagan, Sustainability Program Director, U-M Office of Campus Sustainability.

“Every year we are seeing more students arriving on campus with their own reusable bottle, but most enjoy having a Planet Blue water bottle as well,” Hagan says.  “We survey the incoming freshmen students before they arrive on campus and again at the end of the year.  The trend has been incredibly consistent.  The students use of reusable water bottles vs single use water bottles changes dramatically over the course of the year.” A table of planet blue water bottles sitting in front of Angell Hall

For example, 48 percent of incoming freshmen in 2017 who were surveyed indicated that they used a refillable water bottle every day. By the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, 77 percent of the same students were now using the refillable bottle every day. The use of single use bottles of water dropped from 83 percent to 53 percent.

Notably, a refill station at Mason Hall averages nearly 100,000 uses per year.  

“Refilling a reusable bottle is cheaper, better for the environment and more convenient than purchasing one-time-use plastic water bottles,” says Hagan.  “According to the EPA, the US recycle rate for these bottles is approximately 30 percent. The rest are taking over landfills, littering roadways and polluting waterways. The Earth Institute indicates that the plastic used to make water bottles photodegrade instead of biodegrade, which means they need sunlight to break down into smaller fragments over time. Individuals are encouraged to reduce the waste they are producing by refilling a reusable bottle”
Through collaboration among the Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS), Central Student Government (CSG), Construction Services and other units, more than 300 bottle refill stations have been installed on campus, with more stations added every year. The installations can be found in areas with high pedestrian traffic, including residence halls, libraries, university unions and academic buildings on central and north campuses. 
Water refill stations look similar to traditional water fountains with the additional feature of a built-in sensor in the backsplash. When a bottle is placed in front of the sensor it prompts the station to disperse water from directly above the bottle. Bottle filling goosenecks are a spout that is added onto the fountain allowing users to refill bottles in the upright position. Click the water drop on the UM Sustainability map to find the locations for filling your water bottle. 
Each freshmen student receives a refillable bottle at the New Student Convocation Picnic. For those students who miss the picnic, they can visit the community center, visit Earthfest, or attend one of the MFarmers markets to receive a bottle.