By Alyssa Pawluk
Youngstown State University’s Student Government Association is in the process of writing grants to gain funding for the purchase and installation of water bottle refill stations in each of the academic buildings as well as the Residence Halls.
Last year in early February, the association funded the additions of refill stations to Kilcawley Center and the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center and had planned to add more to different areas of campus.
Ashley Orr, vice president for financial affairs, devised the initiative last year during an SGA meeting after a student approached her with a complaint concerning the university’s lack of refill stations.
“From that, we embraced the issue last year. We were able to help fund two water refill stations on campus that were in the Rec and then the one in Kilcawley, and they have been going absolutely wonderful,” Orr said. “In general, based on the numbers, as you stop by the fountains, you’ll notice that the one in Kilcawley has been used to fill 19,000 water bottles and that was in about eight months. The one in the Rec, I believe it’s over 30,000 water bottles.”
Michael Slavens, president of the SGA, said that SGA representatives had surveyed students in each of the buildings and reached out to university administration, and the majority of the surveys concluded more stations be installed in each of the academic buildings.
“We are making a lot more progress with [the refill stations] this year. A crucial part of it … [SGA] put feelers out to the different people in charge of the different buildings and almost invariably they always do some kind of student survey to see if the students would want it there and where and that is part of it as well,” Slavens said. “They’ve tried to reach out a little bit more to see if other places would like to have them.”
Orr said that the process of gaining approval for the stations began in Maag Library and after gaining administration approval, they obtained an application for a grant from the Youngstown Rotary Foundation, which gained approval in January.
“It’s so exciting because we had done surveys of students at the library and we were happy to get responses back,” Orr said. “The students there would love to have a refill station in their facilities and then we had the students select where they would like to put the stations and a large majority had said by that little café on the third floor is the ideal location and that’s where it’s going to go.”
The library is working on submitting requests for the stations to be installed. Orr said that the overall cost for just one fixture, along with installation, would be around $1200.
“The grant specifies that [Maag Library] would be supplying around $600 and SGA will be supplying the other half … $600 to pay for the refill station, which is around $1200 including the actual fixture and then the labor, the facilities required to install it,” Orr said.
Orr collaborated with others from the financial appropriations committee to meet with the deans of the colleges to put their plan into action.
“What’s real exciting is that we are getting a lot of support from the deans. Over Christmas break, we were able to cross paths with Dean Licata, Dean Kestner from CLASS, and Dean Mosca from Health and Human Services, and in all three — DeBartolo, Cushwa and WCBA — we are going to be expecting stations to be installed over summer, before this coming fall semester. We have [the dean’s] financial support,” she said.
Orr added that the stations in residence would appear some time in the summer.
“The natural progression would be to start asking housing if they would be kind of willing to install these there for the residents. I was very motivated for this because we have a lot of international students and athletes in the dorms,” Orr said. “Athletes are commonly noncommuter students. They can’t just easily drive home and sometimes they don’t always have cars here and the same goes for the international students. So by having water bottle refill stations in the dorms, we are actually saving them money and also time, if they have to purchase bottled water.”
Jane Kestner, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, commented positively on the additions to the academic buildings.
“It would cut down on wastes from water bottles, and we are planning on providing money for at least one station in DeBartolo Hall,” Kestner said.
Orr said that there would be more room in the budget for that summer semester.
“What we are trying there is housing can afford to supply half of the funds. We need around $7000 to be able to put a refill station in each one of the residences the university owns,” Orr said. “Housing can afford to supply around, I think, it’s over $7000, because Housing is looking at supplying around $3900 and right now we’ve formed a grant writing group. We have a grant writing group that has several students from SGA and financial appropriations and university affairs.”
The academic buildings will have the facilities department at YSU install the water refill stations whereas housing and residence has its own team of maintenance to install the stations.
Orr said that the total estimated cost of each station, including labor, for the six locations would be $7200.
“The actual cost from a local vendor for a single unit was around $900 for the residence halls. Several hours for maintenance: estimated a cost of $1200 per refill station in six locations. They will be installing one in each of the university residences, for a total estimated cost of $7200,” Orr said.
An advantage to these stations is that the water is filtered and the filters last up to 17,000 bottles.
“That is based off of a 16-ounce bottle. So give or take 17,000. How often … the Rec Center has changed its [filters] once. They are soon due for the second time. Kilcawley has only changed its once,” Orr said. “Youngstown water doesn’t taste very well. The fact that it is filtered might encourage more people to use it.”
Orr said the cost to replace one unit is around $70 when it is purchased.
“That’s a variable cost. SGA can only appropriate things from their budget on a year basis, so we can’t pay for filters as needed because we only budget one year,” she said.
Orr said that the benefits of these stations are that students and faculty would save time and money from its use and there would be a reduction in the amount of plastic water bottles at the university.
“There are really two main goals of this project. The first is to update facilities and allow students to have access to something that tons of other universities across the state of Ohio, that I know of, have, and allowing them to save money in doing so because buying bottled water day after day really adds up,” Orr said. “The secondary goal is an environmental one. Recycling has been working with us, and I’ve been asking them to do waste audits at the locations near the water bottle refill stations, and we found that in the first six to eight months, there was a reduction of 90 pounds of plastic water bottle waste. Even though campus recycling is recycling, we can stop the problem before it even happens by reducing the amount of plastic water bottles.”