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21,734 bottles in two weeks

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By Brandon Phillips

Staff writer

theaspnews@gmail.com

Sept. 23, 2014

   Auntie Annes has been replaced by a new hydration station in the Campus Center at theUniversity at Albany. This station incorporates three filtered pumps with two nozzles each delivering both still and seltzer water.

   The incorporation of this new station was the work of the University Auxiliary Services (UAS) in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic bottles consumed on campus brought up by Professor Kelpper’s sustainability group.

   The new hydration station is located where the old Auntie Anne’s used to be. The space which had previously been a Häagen-Dazs and then an Auntie Anne’s saw a dramatic drop in sales and failed as a profitable venture, the Director of UAS Stephen Pearse said.

   “It’s a great space but the businesses there weren’t working. At the same time, we were looking into ways to reduce the amount of [disposable] bottles we consumed,” Pearse said.

   In a meeting last spring with Professor Kelpper about UAlbany’s waste management, the decision was made to reduce the amount of bottled water on campus.

   “Why don’t we solve both issues with a hydration station in that physical space?” Pearse said. “ I talked to the board about it and they like the idea. I came up with the name H2O Zone as a play on the word ‘ozone’. The hydration station dispenses water but is also good for the environment.”

   Meanwhile, Karan Verma was working on his grant for reusable water bottles, Pearse said. Verma, a B.A./M.P.A. at UAlbany, is working to change the culture of waste through his reusable water bottle initiative.

   “I always knew I wanted to do something with water,” Verma said. “I’m planning to do research about environmental sustainability.”

   Verma received The National Grid Green Dependence Scholar Grant to study ways to reduce and reuse materials for environmental research. Using the grant money to purchase different kinds of reusable water bottles, Verma created a study to track students’ usage of the bottles and how effective or ineffective they are. The research study is launching this October, Verma said.

   “I want to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard,” Verma said. “By educating people and giving them a bottle, they are more likely to make the right choice.”

   His goal is to change the way people look at how they use water, Verma said. “I went into UAS to chat with Stephen and I was telling him that we need water bottles to create incentives to switch [to reusable water bottles],”Verma said.

   UAS ordered 6,000 reusable bottles and passed them out to students to use with the hydration station during the first week of school.

   “I ordered the bottles specifically because they work well with the nozzles of the hydration station,” Michelle Bowen, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the UAS, said.

   The bottles incorporate a curved design with the H2Ozone logo, and a green (for sustainability) cap. These bottles are BPA free and dishwasher safe.

   “I want to inspire and educate people to create a more responsible culture,” Verma said. “There is a culture right now of plastic bottles, single use bottles, but you feel a type of ownership when you have your own bottle that is yours.”

   How much people use reusable bottles is rising. The hydration station tracks the volume of water it dispenses. Through calculation, the number of 20 oz. water bottles it saves can be known. According to the UAS, since Sept. 9, the hydration station as saved 3,396 gal. which equals 434,688 oz. of water. This divided equals just over 21,734 20 oz. water bottles (I checked).

   Approximately 220,000 20 oz. water bottles were sold or provided as Meal Trade beverages last year in the Campus Center alone, and 130,000 water bottles from vending machines, according to the UAS. These numbers do not include flavored water (as the hydration station does not offer flavors) or the bottles sold at the other retail venues on the uptown and downtown campuses or the donated bottled water the UAS, in partnership with Coke, provide each year to student groups which ranges in the several thousand.

   UAS is looking into places to install a permanent hydration station (possibly recessed in a wall) for next year and beyond when the Campus Center is expanded and updated, Pearse said.

   Many students are frustrated and confused with the loss of another venue on campus. Its placement this year is due to both the going “green” initiative on campus and also the failure of Auntie Anne’s sales. Not enough students weren’t buying, and Auntie Anne’s could not support itself. According to the UAS, many more venues will open when more space, including amenities for restaurants, is created.

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