Green Energy Fee Program completes first project

Jeremy Smith
University Communications intern
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 9:58am

With the completion of three water bottle refilling stations -- one on the second floor of Old Main, one on the first floor of Arntzen Hall and one in the Wade King Student Recreation Center -- Western Washington University’s Green Energy Fee Grant Program has completed the first of a number of projects initiated by the fledgling program.

Created in 2010, the Green Energy Fee Grant Program puts to use student dollars collected in the quarterly Green Energy Fee and designated to the grant program. This year, that's some $300,000, said Kathryn Freeman, Green Energy Fee Grant Program Coordinator.

The water bottle refilling stations were a joint effort of the Green Fee office, Facilities Management, the Office of Sustainability and the students in Western’s Students for Sustainable Water club. The stations are intended to encourage students to bring reusable water bottles to campus rather than purchasing bottled water.

“The hassle of filling up a water bottle was the main reason people would just buy a bottle [of water],” said Anna Amundson, president of Students for Sustainable Water. “Now they don’t have a real reason not to bring reusable water bottles.”

It takes three liters of water to make one liter-sized plastic bottle of water, Amundson said. The water refill stations keep track of the number of 20 ounce bottles of water saved by their use. The model selected by Western uses a sensor to activate water disbursement. Students place their bottles in the sensor area and the water comes out until the bottle is removed from the sensor.

Western alumna Julia Shure originally conceived the water bottle refilling station project during her last quarter at Western. When Shure graduated in winter 2011 from Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Amundson took over as the leader of the project for Students for Sustainable Water. The completion of this project is important for the Green Energy Fee Program.

“This is the first year we have been implementing projects,” Freeman said, “and [the water bottle refilling station] project is the first completed project of the program.”

The program hopes to complete four other projects this year, including retrofitting the lights in the C lot parking lots with LED lights and installing solar panels on the Environmental Studies building. They currently have two pilot programs in place in the most popular restrooms on campus, composting paper towels in Haggard Hall and installing Dyson hand dryers in select Arntzen Hall restrooms, to discover which option is better for the school.