South High School Students Secure Hydration Station & Reduce Waste

Hydration-StationEarly last fall, Minneapolis South High School’s environmental group, the Green Tigers, decided that a worthy project to pursue would be the installation of water bottle filling stations, affectionately coined “Hydration Stations”. Our school, although legally unable to sell unhealthy snacks or soda in vending machines, continues to sell bottled water, which students buy regularly. Many students buy a bottle daily, which is both a waste of financial and natural resources. Our hope with installing hydration stations was that students would be motivated to bring a reusable bottle to fill with fresh and free water. However, installing a hydration station is expensive and time-consuming.

We decided on Elkay’s Water Bottle Filling Station, as it is the most common and counts the number of bottles “saved” from landfills. They cost roughly $1000 apiece. We figured it would be appropriate to sell reusable water bottles to fundraise. We fronted the cost of the bottles with money Green Tigers already had, and ended up raising more than $400. Sales of t-shirts with the same logo as the bottles also contributed to our fundraising. Our most lucrative fundraising effort was a page on Indiegogo, a crowdsourcing website. Green Tigers made a video about hydration stations, we set a goal of $500 in one month, and then shared the page on social media. We met our goal exactly, which was wonderful.

To cover the remaining costs, we applied for three grants.  We ended up receiving funding only through the Hennepin County Green Partners Environmental Education Program because of our work with YEA! MN – but between that grant and our fundraising, we were able to purchase one hydration station.

The fundraising process, in addition to obtaining administrative support, and logistics, has been very challenging. I have learned that it takes much more than just a spark to see a project through to completion: it requires a great commitment to the cause. We expected that after all the fundraising, ordering the hydration station would be simple. It wasn’t. Administrative hurdles, in addition to details, took much longer than expected. The hydration station arrived the last week of school, and it will be installed this summer or early next fall. We are hoping that with the remaining funds, installing a second hydration station will take much less time, especially with our better understanding of the process.

Our work does not end when the hydration station is in the wall. We will be publicizing its installation and educating the student body on its significance, through presentations, talking with students, and a video shown on school monitors. We are hoping to emphasize that the hydration stations are supposed to reduce disposable water bottle usage, and to highlight the environmental and justice impacts of single-use plastic. With climate change faced by our generation, Green Tigers wants everybody to be prepared and educated about the ways to reduce their carbon footprints.

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Becca is an incoming senior at South High School and member of the YEA! MN Steering Committee. A core program of the Will Steger Foundation, YEA! MN  (Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota) supports a network of high school environmental clubs working together across the Twin Cities Metro to empower student leadership on climate change solutions, facilitate shared skills and strategies, and take coordinated action at home, at school, and in the wider community.

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