Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland senior Christian Berenguer fills his water bottle Tuesday at a filling station in the Student Life Center. In an effort to eliminate mountains of plastic bottles going into landfills, the college has joined with Auxiliary Service Corp., which provides food and utility services for the school, to install water refill stations and sell reusable water bottles.
Faculty and students at SUNY Cortland should think twice about purchasing a bottle of water on campus come fall, due to a new initiative.
In the campus-wide program to help eliminate mountains of plastic bottles entering landfills, the school has partnered with Auxiliary Services Corp., which provides food and utility services for the school, to install new water refill stations — which accommodate 16-ounce drinking jugs — and sell reusable water bottles.
The idea is the brainchild of Auxiliary Services Executive Director Pierre Gagnon, who said he thought of the idea when he learned, in a five-year span, the school had sold about80,000 cups of water in just one of its dinning locations.
“That is a significant number of plastic cups going into a landfill,” Gagnon said.
He said he decided there needed to be a change and when he noticed how popular one of the campus’ refill stations on campus was, the water sustainability idea came to him.
Six filter refill stations will be set up around campus — near The Bookmark in Memorial Library, Hilltop in Brockway Hall, Dragon’s Den in Old Main, in the Student Life Center and at Corey Union.
Come this fall semester,Auxiliary Service will have500 16-ounce reusable water jugs available for sale to faculty and students. Gagnon saidthe corporation is not makingany money off the jugs. However, it is selling them for $1 morethan what it paid for them, as the extra $1 will be donated to the “Drilling for Hope” initiative. This was started by alumnaKaren Collier Flewelling, of Saratoga Springs, and provides clean water in rural African communities.
Her organization’s work has resulted in the drilling, or repair, of 40 community wells and the purchase of more than three dozen cisterns and filters for communities throughout Ethiopia and Tanzania.
In a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, Flewelling said she works with communities that have no electricity and get their water from streams that the natives wash their clothes in, bath in and animals swim in. So, the need for clean water there is essential.
“We’re making a difference on campus and helpingpeople around the world,” said SUNY Cortland PresidentErik Bitterbaum. “It is quiteextraordinary.”
Gagnon said when coming up with the idea for the initiative it was important to himto have a charity involved. Flewelling’s name was brought up during a sustainability meeting and knowing her name through the numerous awards the school has presented her — named SUNY CortlandDistinguished Alumna in 2014 and honored with a SUNY Doctorate of Humane Letters this year — Gagnon said he knew her project would be a perfect one to partner with.
“I’m ecstatic,” Flewelling said about working with SUNY Cortland. “It is absolutely wonderful to get help for SUNY Cortland.”
Disposable drinking cups will no longer be sold on campus. Menu boards and message screens around campus will be encouraging campus members to purchase a water bottle, as will cashiers at campus dining outlets.
There is no requirement to purchase the Auxiliary Service jug, as SUNY Cortland’sorientation is handing out free water bottles. Gagnon said he is happy to see many studentsusing reusable water bottles and hopes to see many more follow suit.
Bitterbaum said he thinksthe initiative will take off because this generation of students is concerned with being “green” and making a global difference. And both these goals are met with the use of a reusable water bottle and using the new refill stations.