The Northern Pacific Ocean is earning itself a new name: the Pacific Trash Vortex.  According to National Geographic, the ocean houses a 1.33 million square mile landfill in this area.  According to the LA Times, 90 percent of this waste is plastic.
Despite general apathy, plastic water bottle usage is an issue.  That is why Illinois Wesleyan University’s Sierra Student Coalition has begun the “Take Back the Tap” movement.
The program has been an incredible success.
The first step on Illinois Wesleyan’s campus was providing water bottles to first-years at the beginning of the year, which they hope to continue in the future.  The second step is installing “hydration stations” around campus.
Hydration stations are specialized spigots attached to typical water fountains.  Placing your bottle on a pressure pad activates the station, which provides crisp, filtered water to students.
Senior Megan George, a co-president of SSC, said, “During the initial stages of the ‘Take Back the Tap’ movement on campus, which began last spring though the work of now alum Hayley Harroun, myself and Jinny Alexander, we researched how other college campuses removed bottled water as well as joined the national movement.
“Other campuses began by making tap water more accessible, meaning free reusable bottles, making them easier to fill and making water taste better.”
“We are dedicated to figuring out ways for people to start drinking tap water,” Alexander said.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 14, the equivalent of 21,253 plastic bottles of water have been saved on campus due to the new “hydration stations,” and that’s from only two stations for less than two semesters.  Each station provides over 68 bottles-worth of water per day.  With results like these, it’s hard to argue the bottles and stations haven’t been popular.
“We’ve seen a very positive reaction from students,” Alexander said. “Occasionally, when I try to fill up my bottle, there will be a bit of a line forming behind me.”
First-year Mike Kelly said, “I didn’t drink water often before getting the water bottle from SSC. If I did, I just grabbed a plastic water bottle.  Now, I use the one I got for free.”
While providing water bottles already made a sustainable option more convenient, hydration stations make it a no-brainer.
“The hydration stations give students an opportunity to be healthy and sustainable,” said Karla Carney-Hall, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “It’s a great resource for students carrying their water bottles.”
“I really like the hydration stations because they’re so convenient for me.  I can just quick fill up my bottle between classes,” first-year Nick Brennan said.
To everyone involved in the “Take Back the Tap” movement: thank you.  Your work is allowing Illinois Wesleyan to reach and maintain its goal of sustainability on an administrative and practical level.  These initiatives are producing impressive numbers and, much more importantly, more sensible students.
“The hydration stations are important because they increase the likelihood that someone will choose not to buy a single-use plastic water bottle,” George said. “We want to make sure we do not discourage people from drinking water, but rather encourage students to use reusable water bottles.”