College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2010 > Drink Up! New Water Filling Station Is Ecologically Friendly

Drink Up! New Water Filling Station Is Ecologically Friendly

News release about a new drinking water filling station

water.jpgby Joe Savrock (January 2010)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new drinking water filling station on the first floor of Chambers Building is giving eco-conscious students, staff, and faculty another good reason to avoid purchasing commercial bottled water.

The sensor-activated filling station is located in the hallway between the atrium and the west exit that leads toward Kern Building. It easily accommodates reusable drinking cups and larger containers. The unit features a touchless dispenser with an automatic shutoff timer.

The ecological benefit is that the filling station diminishes the convenience of using those imperishable, one-time-use plastic water bottles that are taking over landfills and littering roadways. Plastic bottles, which decompose poorly, have been the target of numerous ecology-interest groups, including 3E-COE (Environment, Ecology, Education in the College of Education).

3E-COE, a student organization in the College of Education, initiated the project of installing refill stations in Chambers Building as well as in a handful of other buildings across campus.

“This is one of the most tangible results of our efforts,” said Peter Buckland, 3E-COE president and a graduate student in the Educational Theory and Policy program, “It's heartening to see our College and the University’s operations step up to provide water in a way that is both smart and convenient. This is a win for Penn State and a first step away from anti-environmental water use.”

3E-COE started its effort more than a year ago, when it lobbied President Graham Spanier by hosting a rally in front of Old Main about the problems associated with water bottles. The rally led to meetings with the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) on how to handle waste on campus.

“Our initiatives right now concern moving the university toward sustainable, clean, and safe drinking water—which means reducing the sale of any single-use plastic water bottles with the goal of eventually eliminating them,” said Buckland. “One day, I hope to see bottle-filling stations in every building and no water bottles coming from vending machines or vendors.”

The appearance and taste of water coming from the College’s water fountains and kitchenette sinks has been another 3E-COE concern. “If we want to move people away from disposable single-use bottles, then we should know some things about how our water tastes,” said Buckland.

OPP and the 3E-COE students collaborated to test the College’s water to measure hardness, pH, iron, and temperature. "There were two locations that were found to be of concern—and the concern was over temperature and not quality,” said Steve Maruszewski, deputy associate vice president for Physical Plant.

OPP has addressed the temperature issue by making upgrades to the College’s fountains, including the installation of several new water coolers with mechanical refrigeration.

Maruszewski added, “This entire effort has been a great partnership between faculty, staff, and students.”

Buckland notes that the College’s water is tested regularly and the results are reported to OPP. “Penn State has more people securing and testing water than the entire FDA does for all of the bottled water industry,” he said.

3E-COE, a member of the Penn State Sustainability Coalition, continues its efforts to educate people on how to become more sustainable. The organization brings in community leaders to speak about ways to overcome environmental issues. Members also hope to begin working with local schools and their garden projects to push forward environmental education programs in the classroom.

Meetings are the first and third Thursday of each month starting at 7:30 p.m. in 134 CEDAR Building, and members of the College and University are invited to attend. For more information, contact Buckland at or visit 3E-COE’s Web site at