Photo Rick Swanson
Hingham High administrators say they have kept thousands of plastic bottles out of local landfills with the installation of a third water refilling station on the school’s campus.
The machine, donated by Aquarion Water Company along with 100 reusable bottles, keeps track of how much water is dispensed, counting it by the number of plastic bottles. Installed late April, administrators said the machine has dispensed thousands of bottle’s worth of water in just a month.
“We’re seeing several hundreds [of bottles saved], probably into the thousands by now, in just a few weeks,” said Hingham High Assistant Principal Rick Swanson. “…It gives us a sense of what kind of impact one thing can have, that one step…encouraging more kids to stop using single-use bottles…and how much of an impact it can have in not producing that plastic.”
Hingham is no stranger to water refilling stations, which are tantamount to a water bubbler with a spigot more like a faucet. Aquarion first donated money to install the first station in 2011.
With lines continually long at the front-lobby station, Hingham administrations successfully petitioned the PTO to have a second water refilling station installed in the cafeteria last year.
Yet there was still a need. After some conversations with Aquarion, the company agreed to donate the money for a third water refilling station, this one with a tracking tool.
The machine, a newer version than the first installed two years ago, also fills up bottles faster.
“With the cost of installation, it’s a couple thousand dollars for a unit. They have been very generous,” Swanson said of Aquarion.
Representatives from Aquarion say Hingham High isn’t the only local school eager to get their hands on the fresh H20.
Hull High also received a water refilling station two years ago and is in talks to receive a second. More locally, South Elementary School and Plymouth River Elementary School, both in Hingham, have approached Aquarion for stations.
“The program is evolving,” said Ronit Goldstein, Community Relations Manager for Aquarion. “Fortunately, the parents are understanding that it’s not a uniform unit and the time installed isn’t up to us; it’s when the kids aren’t in the building. As we get more of a demand, we’ll look at what we’ve budged to do and that may increase based on how successful the program is.”
Yet Hingham has become the model for the program, with excitement high as each new unit graces the High School hallways.
“I think the high school has really taken to this, to say the least. The level of enthusiasm that day, I was overwhelmed,” Goldstein said. “It’s amazing, high school students using reusable bottles, and excited about a hydration station.”
Swanson said the donation falls in line with Hingham’s overall mission to boost recycling compliance while simultaneously reducing recycling volume.
“It sounds strange that we want our recycling volume to go down, but if our participation rate is going up, which it is, and volume is going down, people are reusing, and that’s a better place to be,” Swanson said. “Recycle is your third option. If you can reuse you won’t have to recycle. We’re seeing a big improvement in the number of kids and teachers as well going for reusable bottles instead of bringing in a new bottle every day and recycling. This is a big step forward.”
The third station was placed on the second floor of the building, joining the first station – located in the first floor lobby, and the second – located in the cafeteria.
Swanson has hopes of even bringing more into the school, especially after seeing the demand.
“One of the unintended consequences is kids line up and the lines get long. In between periods kids have a hard time getting to class on time. So [if we can, we’ll try to] get another one up there to cut down on the lines and satisfy the demands,” he said.