By Graig Graziosi
Correction: The original version of this article credited funding to the YSU Foundation. The funding instead is provided by the Youngstown Foundation. 6/30/15
Students living on campus looking for a cheap and healthy alternative to buying bottled beverages will have access to free filtered water in every residence hall and apartment on campus.
Thanks to a $4,182 grant from the Youngstown Foundation and an agreement with YSU Housing and Residence Life, the Student Government Association will be moving forward with their water bottle refill station initiative this summer.
The SGA’s refill station efforts began in 2013 and resulted in the installation of two stations — one in Kilcawley Student Center and another in the Andrews Student Health and Wellness Center — in 2014.
Water bottle refill stations are meant as an alternative and eventually a replacement to traditional water fountains. Rather than providing a nozzle to drink from, the refill stations feature a long, hooked faucet for refilling water bottles. The design helps reduce wasted water was well as reduce calcium buildup on the faucets as seen on many water fountains around campus.
The refill stations are expected to be installed and operational by fall semester. Along with the stations, SGA will be providing refillable water bottles to all incoming freshmen students for use with the stations.
SGA President Ashley Orr has seen the refill station initiative as a major project priority, working alongside other members to search for funding.
“A team of SGA members, notably Mariah DeFuria and Carmen Marinucci, helped with putting the grant together. We three attended a meeting with Jan Strasfeld [Youngstown Foundation member] to further explain the project and advocate for their support,” Orr said. “Receiving the grant is such a wonderful step for YSU SGA. It helps us realize that although funds are limited at the university, great projects can still be completed with the help of our community. It encourages us to think outside out of the box.”
The total cost of installing the stations in the residence halls is $8,365. Individually, each refill station costs $895 and installation of the units costs another $300. The units will be installed in the following buildings: Kilcawley House, Cafaro House, Lyden House, Wick House, University Courtyards buildings A and B and the Christman Dining Hall. YSU Housing and Residence Life is providing the second half of the refill station cost.
Orr believes the cost of the stations is worth the investment based on student response to the initiative and the potential savings for students and YSU.
The SGA grant proposal sent to the Youngstown Foundation cites a poll administered to a group of 140 resident students, with 134 respondents supporting the installation of refill stations in the dorms. Of that 134, 125 students indicated they would likely use the stations one or more times daily.
While the stations would allow students to cut down on buying bottled water and other bottled beverages while on campus, the SGA also pointed to the potential resource savings associated with a decline in plastic bottle use.
“Additionally, YSU Recycling noted a decrease in water bottles recycled close to the fountains … within the last nine months the two YSU refill stations have refilled over 45,000 water bottles,” the letter stated.
To ensure the refill stations are helping to reduce waste on campus, YSU Recycling has agreed to partner with SGA to conduct waste audits around the installed stations. The SGA letter suggests the current stations may have reduced up to 100 pounds of plastic waste.
Other regional colleges, such as the Ohio State University, Oberlin College, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Toledo have refill stations on their campuses.