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Taking Back the Tap

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    Quick and easy:  Water bottle refilling stations gradually are being installed all over the William & Mary campus, with the goal of at least one per high traffic building.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Sustainability is a strategic priority at William & Mary and our students are finding creative ways to help the university “go green.” 

The student group Take Back the Tap has partnered with William & Mary’s Office of Sustainability to find a way to make tap water more accessible on campus through the use of bottle-filling stations. The effort helps eliminate plastic disposable waste on campus, as well as save money and give the campus community a more convenient option for filling their reusable bottles.

Each semester, the university’s Committee on Sustainability (COS) seeks proposals for Green Fee funds. The funds are used for efforts that advance the President’s Policy on Sustainability. Any individual – faculty, staff or student – can submit a proposal that addresses an important issue for the sustainable future of the university.

When a number of student requests to use Green Fee funds to add more bottle-filling stations came flowing in, the Office of Sustainability recognized that there was a need that needed to be filled on campus. As a result, the stations are now a regular part of the office’s funding.

The stations include a bottle-filling apparatus in the back of a regular water fountain, designated by the bottle-shaped outline visible there. When a bottle is placed underneath the stream, the unit fills the bottle quickly and automatically shuts off when the bottle is full.

The stations contain a digital counter that displays how many plastic water bottles have been saved from landfills or recycling by the use of that particular unit. There are currently more than 50 bottle-filling stations strategically placed in high-traffic areas on campus. As a result of this effort, building specifications for new buildings and major renovations now include a requirement for at least one bottle-filling station.

Drawing upon the strengths, passions, and expertise of its faculty, students and staff, W&M is creating a new model of sustainability for higher education. From faculty/student research and student internships to innovative community partnerships and widespread volunteerism, the university is promoting sustainability by producing leaders for tomorrow’s world who understand both the challenge and the opportunity in a sustainable future.

So the next time you reach for that plastic bottle between classes, remember that you can make a difference in the effort to reduce plastic waste by making use of the bottle-filling stations scattered around campus.