Why Stevenson High is replacing fountains with bottle fillers

School is installing eco-friendly bottle-filling water fountain stations

Earth-friendly bottle-filling stations soon will replace traditional water fountains at Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School.

The machines will allow students, staffers and visitors to stay hydrated while using fewer disposable bottles. That means less plastic winds up in landfills or in nature as carelessly discarded litter, environmentalists say.

The free stations also encourage students to drink more water, instead of soda or other sugary drinks, Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.

“This is something that ties in with our student wellness initiative,” Conrey said. “This is a way to get students to develop a habit of drinking plenty of water each day.”

The first machines will be installed this summer as part of a larger plumbing project, and more will be added over time, he said. A cost estimate wasn't available.

Filling stations for reusable bottles are in use at other suburban schools, including Mundelein High, the College of Lake County in Grayslake, various Elgin Area School District U-46 campuses and most of the Wauconda Unit District 118 campuses.

Mundelein's village hall and Lincolnshire's Vernon Area Public Library have refilling stations in their lobbies, too. They also can be found at O'Hare and Chicago Midway international airports, Northwestern and Loyola universities, Brookfield Zoo, Navy Pier and various corporate facilities, according to Elkay Manufacturing, the Oak Brook company that introduced the filling station in 2010.

With prices starting around $1,500, Elkay's machines can fill a 16-ounce bottle with cold water in about five seconds. They're triggered automatically when a bottle is placed in front of a sensor, and they turn off when a bottle is removed.

Stevenson High board member Merv Roberts noted filling a bottle at a traditional water fountain can be difficult. Such attempts often result in wasted water, he said.

Jennifer Caddick, a spokeswoman for an environmental group called the Alliance for the Great Lakes, lauded Stevenson for making the switch.

“Reducing the need for single-use plastic bottles by installing filling stations for reusable water bottles is a great move that will help keep litter out of the Great Lakes,” Caddick said. “Plastic bottles were among the top 10 items cleaned up from beaches around the Great Lakes in 2015. And it's not just the bottles that are a problem. Each water bottle has a cap, which also is a source of litter on beaches.”

Those environmental concerns are especially important to Stevenson administrators.

  Stevenson High School officials plan to install bottle filling stations similar to this one at Mundelein's village hall. Paul Valade/

The equipment is coming as officials work to renew the school's certification with the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Stevenson earned gold-level LEED certification in 2011, becoming the first public high school in the nation to hit that mark for an existing building.

The certification recognized the school's energy-saving efforts and earth-friendly policies. Those steps included increased recycling, lighting and heating adjustments during off hours and reduced paper use.

Because LEED certification expires after five years, recertification is required. The new machines will tie into that mission, officials said.

There are personal-health reasons to like bottle-filling stations, too. For example, their filters remove particles, lead and odors from water.

They don't require people to put their mouths near potentially germ-covered spigots, either.

Wauconda District 118 Superintendent Daniel Coles is a fan of the bottle stations. They've been installed at five of the district's six schools as older fountains have been replaced.

“The kids love them and they help promote a healthy lifestyle,” Coles said. “We all need to drink more water.”

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