An important area of focus for the Environmental Protection Group (EPG) here at Fermilab is waste minimization. This involves working to reduce the amount of waste we generate from not only operational activities but everyday activities as well. One of the most common forms of waste associated with our daily activities is plastic bottles and cups.
A survey conducted last summer by the Employee Advisory Group showed that an average of 240,000 water bottles are disposed of each year by Fermilab employees. And although that is a staggering number, a more recent survey conducted on the EPG Earth Day webpage showed that 75 percent of disposable bottle and cup users are interested in using less.
People noted that one of the main reasons they used disposable water bottles was that they didn’t like the taste of the water from Wilson Hall drinking fountains. Recently, to improve the taste, enhanced preventive maintenance of the fountains, including more frequent maintenance. This process will continue on a routine basis going forward, and we encourage everyone to give the fountains a try!
Other reasons people mentioned for using disposable bottles or cups included the cost and maintenance of reusable containers. A basic reusable water bottle typically ranges from $10-$20. When purchasing water bottles by the case, one is likely to recoup their cost after only a few cases. Those who purchase water bottles individually recover the cost even sooner.
Finally, some believe that drinking bottled water is a healthier alternative to tap water. However, both tap and bottled water originate from the same types of sources, and the Food and Drug Administration bases its standards for bottled water on the same standards as the Environmental Protection Agency uses for tap water.
In the end, a reusable water bottle is a sound investment that not only saves money but also helps support the lab’s waste minimization goal.
If you have any ideas for encouraging the use of reusable bottles, please feel free to submit your thoughts through the EPG’s survey.
Bridget Iverson is the Fermilab environmental protection manager.