Student-Led Effort Helps The Science Center Reduce Use of Disposable Water Bottles

November 10, 2015
Reusable water bottles filled at new Wellesley Science Center hydration stations

Wellesley empowers students to be leaders in their communities, including here on campus. That tradition helped to spur a recent, important development in the Science Center.

As JoNan Bilodeau 'DS, Science Center office manager, explained in a recent email to faculty and staff, the center uses almost 8,000 disposable water bottles at events each year. "Not any more. Once our existing supply has been used, we will no longer be providing disposable bottles of water for any Science Center events," she wrote.

Staffers were invited to pick up a new reusable, BPA-free water bottle that can be filled at one of the three "hydration stations" that were installed in the building over the summer. Both the bottles and the stations resulted from the research and grant-writing efforts of Annie Roth Blumfield '17, a biological sciences major and an education minor who works in the Science Center.

In May 2014, Bilodeau was preparing to meet with the Office of Sustainability to find out how to acquire water stations for the building. (At that time, there were only seven stations on campus.) She asked Blumfield to create a graphic showing why it was important to reduce the number of disposable plastic water bottles used in the building each year.

The image illustrated that 4,000 bottles, if stacked end to end, would stand as tall as the Khalifa Tower—the world's tallest building—or twice as tall as the Empire State Building. That impressed Bilodeau and the Office of Sustainability, which suggested the Science Center apply for a grant from the Class of 1957 Green Fund. The fund has supported several other sustainability efforts on campus, including the installation of low-flow shower heads in Stone/Davis Hall and the Wellesley College Bike Share program.

Blumfield had never written a grant proposal but Bilodeau said, "I knew she had the passion and the drive to do a good job." Bilodeau, who oversaw the project with the support of Cathy Summa, director of the Science Center, said Blumfield taught herself the skills she needed and "just ran with it." Blumfield submitted her proposal in December 2014 and the grant was awarded that same month.

"As a community, we need to make wise choices and work together to lessen our environmental footprint," said Bilodeau. "This project demonstrates how much one person can accomplish."