New Mexico State University: a case study in sustainability

Sept. 21, 2015

Whether they’re motivated by concern for their health, their bank accounts or the environment (or all three), many people – particularly college students and Millennials - are carrying reusable water bottles these days. There will always be demand for a quick, cool drink of water at a drinking fountain, but today consumers are also asking for an easy way to refill their portable water bottles. Water bottle filling stations, including those that retrofit onto existing drinking fountains, are a perfect solution. 

A college campus is filled with people trying to do the right thing.  joni newcomer, sustainability manager at New Mexico State University, is one. She’s been carrying the same canteen for 10 years. When she first encouraged students to fill their own bottles, however, there was a hitch.

“I would see them trying to fill up, pressing the little button, angling their bottle, trying to get the water from the regular drinking fountain into their bottles. And you could see their frustration.”

One student volunteer in a group heard about the ezH2O® and started a rally. A local plumbing company donated the first station, and installed it in the activity center where students hang out and work out. joni remembers, “It was such a big hit.” And not just with parched students.

“It's almost like the entire University Facilities and Services Department, just as a whole said, ‘You know what? This is a good idea.’ I never had to talk anyone into anything.”

Administrators love the savings. And joni tells us about the plumber who may be ezH2O’s biggest fan, especially when he can avoid fixing tired old fountains.

“Changing the filter is easy. Everything is easy. I kept egging him, ‘You sure? There’s really nothing you’d change?’ And he goes, ‘Nope! Love them.’”

Three years later, NMSU is home to 34 Elkay ezH2O bottle filling stations. They estimate more than 527,000 bottles saved, which equals more than 21,600 pounds of 16.9 ounce bottles. This saves “tipping fees,” the cost each time a load of trash is “tipped” into a landfill. Overall, NMSU has achieved a 70% diversion rate, the percentage of waste that does not end up in landfills.

The next generation ezH2O bottle filling station will hit campus later in 2015. The primary focus of her job is saving energy, so joni likes how the cooler can be programmed to turn off during times of non-use such as weekends or nights.  Since she currently walks the whole campus to add up bottle savings, she also looks forward to the new cloud-based counter. Students, faculty and staff are excited, too.

“They’re constantly calling, ‘What can we do to get a new bottle filling station in our building?’ I’m like, ‘Well, you can break the existing one.’ Wink, Wink.”

joni does tell them she’s kidding.

Find out more at Elkay.com/ezH2O

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