Blog post written by Seth O’Bryan, Commons Co-Director and Living Building class teacher:
“Time is money,” is a popular adage I often hear. If you have walked through the main Gallery recently, then you might have noticed the new water fountain. It contains a motion sensor water bottle filler and digital display that communicates how many equivalent plastic water bottles have been filled since its first use. The new water fountain takes about ⅓ the amount of time to fill a water bottle as the old one. We hope that given the speed with which the machine fills water bottles, people will be more prone to bring a reusable water bottle to school and avoid buying plastic water bottles. There are a tremendous amount of plastic water bottles that are purchased in a year, and most go to waste. Also, the construction of one plastic water bottle at a factory takes at least twice the amount of water as is in the water bottle.
It often takes a team to lead effective change. The vision for purchasing a new machine was student inspired. Many universities and grade schools already have motion-sensor drinking fountains, and a few Living Building (upper school elective) students believed Harley should follow their lead. The students put together a proposal for purchasing one, and the proposal included environmental and community benefits. Then, they met with administrators to discuss the value of a new water fountain and the financial resources for the investment. Included in that group was the facilities director who was the key person for ensuring that the proposal fit with the mission of the school and was a reasonable request. The facilities team did a remarkable job with the installation, as it appears as though the drinking fountain has always been a part of the wall. The Living Building students have more ideas for designing a Harley water bottle that would be part of a fundraiser and also to work with the administration to cut back on using plastic water bottles at events (something we have significantly curbed in recent years). In the meantime, bring your reusable water bottle to school!