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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

Bottled water is energy intensive

One way to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels is to reduce usage of products that are energy intensive to produce, like bottled water. The amount of oil used to produce and transport bottled water in the USA is enough to fuel 1.5 million cars for a year. Millions of bottles are sent to landfills every day for a product that costs 1,000x more than what comes out of the tap for free.

The good news is that “hydration” stations are popping up in Santa Barbara through the Rethink the Drink project and they are appearing in airports, parks, office buildings and colleges across the country (read an article from USA Today).

Change in Santa Barbara

Rethink the Drink is a project of the Community Environmental Council, funded primarily by the Orfalea Foundations and their s’Cool Food Initiative. Last year’s pilot project installed refill “hydration” stations to Santa Barbara High School and Franklin Elementary, as well as Santa Barbara Junior High, the Westmont College Gym and Montecito Union Elementary (through corporate and private partnerships).

The refill stations provide cold, filtered water either from a regular water fountain spout or a refill mechanism that fills reusable bottles quickly. The stations have a “counter” that reflects the number of uses, effectively showing the number of plastic bottles not being used by opting to refill.

Last school year, Franklin Elementary’s plastic bottle usage dropped more than 80% in the first two months of Rethink the Drink implementation. The stations were met with enthusiasm at all locations during the pilot; they were used cumulatively more than 46,000 times during their first four months of operation!

Stainless steel canteens were given to all students and staff at Franklin and donated to the Dons Net Café student marketing group at SBHS for their student store. The Dons Net Café also helped to establish a baseline of bottled water usage prior to refill station installations and continues to serve as a “go-to” group for photo shoots and school outreach.

Project Renewal

We are so pleased to announce that project has been renewed for a second year with generous support from the Orfalea Foundations’ s’Cool Food Initiative and we are thus far welcoming Adams, Harding and Monroe Elementary Schools to the program. All these schools will receive a refill station and stainless steel canteens for students and staff. An education component accompanies the program, with CEC staff offering presentations to students, staff and parents as well as an opportunity to screen the film “Bag It.”

The SBHS gym is also receiving a station as part of the second year program, as is the Boys and Girls Club on Canon Perdido. This reflects a focus on athletics for the 2011-2012 school year, as bottled water usage is particularly high among student athletes. Rethink the Drink aims to offer an economically viable alternative to purchasing bottled water in addition to providing education about the need to reduce our dependence upon energy intensive products.

Contact Project Manager Kathi King ( for more information, and visit Rethink the Drink on Facebook to stay up-to-date.

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