As an athlete at Union College, Marissa Peck drinks her share of water, but as an environmentally conscious person, she prefers drinking out of a reusable bottle.
While exercising in the gym at Union, Peck would often see people drink one, two or sometimes three disposable plastic bottles of water per workout. This frustrated her.
“I am not only an athlete, but I work on the environmental movement on campus,” she said. “It really bothers me when I see people in the gym and they are using these plastic water bottles.”
So Peck decided to apply for the Presidential Green Grant offered by Union College to ensure that plastic water bottles were no longer filling up garbage cans on campus and landing in local landfills. Peck, in conjunction with the athletic department, was awarded $2,000 to buy water refill stations, which are easy add-ons to existing water fountains. The athletic department has agreed to purchase another refill station in the fiscal year 2014-15 and install it in another facility on campus.
Two of the refill stations have already been installed: one in the basement of Messa Rink, the other in the recently renovated field house. The third will be added to the main workout space of the Breazzano Fitness Center, according to Peck.
“The Presidential Green Grants give the students, faculty and staff at Union resources in order to carry out the projects and initiatives they want to see take place on campus,” said Meghan Haley-Quigley, Union’s sustainability coordinator.
The refill stations have a digital counter on them to measure how many 8-ounce water bottles have been saved by refilling with the fountain. When Peck went to check the other day, one of the refill stations already had prevented the waste of more than 100,000 bottles.
“So that’s really exciting,” she said. “Obviously there was a need.”
This is the sixth year the college has given out the Presidential Green Grants. According to Jeff Corbin, an associate professor of biology, more than $75,000 has gone to projects like Peck’s in the past six years. This year alone, the program funded more than $31,000 in grants ranging from $715 to $2,000. The grants include 11 campuswide projects and nine geared toward research.
“This is our biggest year yet,” he said.
Generally, the projects fall into two different categories, Corbin explained — things that make campus operations more sustainable or research of regional or global importance.
“I think that for one thing, the project really shows that the college has not only been making its own operation more sustainable ... but as an institution of higher learning, we have the research to make larger impacts on a regional and local scale,” he said.
Some of the projects this year included 90 reusable cups for the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, a bicycle repair center on campus, a study of the toxic effects of mercury on songbird blood and recycling bins for on-campus events.