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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.

This week, CEC released “Pointless Plastic,” a short video highlighting the need to reduce dependence upon bottled water.

© Erin Feinblatt

The Project

As a part of an overall vision to lead the community away from energy-intensive products, CEC launched its “Rethink the Drink” campaign in January, aiming to reduce single use plastic bottles by 75% in several pilot schools. With funding from local partners, we installed 6 refill stations:

  • Franklin Elementary
  • Montecito Union Elementary
  • Santa Barbara High (2 units)
  • Santa Barbara Junior High
  • Westmont College gym

The refill stations dispense cold, filtered water with both a regular water fountain spout and a quick-fill mechanism, and electronically display the number of times they’ve been used. Since the beginning of the year, students have used the stations 46,827 times as of June 6 – dramatically reducing their use of disposable plastic water bottles.

To encourage the students to use the refill stations, CEC and its project funders distributed reusable stainless steel canteens to all 600 students and staff at Franklin Elementary and displayed a Rethink the Drink poster adjacent to each refill station. At Santa Barbara High, 200 canteens were distributed with the help of the Dons Net Café student entrepreneur class, and Santa Barbara Junior High raffled over 50 canteens to students. Using its own funding, the Montecito Union School PTA’s Green Team distributes canteens at the beginning of the year to every student and staff member.


Before and After

Prior to the project, a waste audit of Franklin Elementary showed that student, faculty and staff were using 275 bottles of water per week. Since installing a refill station, they use fewer than 50 a week.

Over the course of a school year, that’s the equivalent of going from more than 11,000 bottles to less than 2,000.

“It is such a wonderful thing to teach students about saving the environment by playing an active role. Students as young as four have learned about how they are saving the earth by using canteens and the refill station. Our kids are healthier and have decided they’d rather drink water than bring anything from home because the canteens are cool and the water tastes good!”

— Franklin Principal Casie Killgore



CEC’s Vision

The production and transportation of bottled water is very energy intensive. More than 17 million barrels of oil each year are used to bring bottled water to our stores — enough to fuel one million vehicles for a year! Despite being recyclable, fewer than 30% of the bottles make it to a recycling bin. CEC’s vision is of a fossil free future where we choose energy-smart products that reduce our carbon footprint The reduction of single use plastic water bottles falls in line with that vision and the Rethink the Drink program is helping us get there .


Rethink the Drink’s funding partners are the Orfalea Foundations, the Ann Jackson Family Foundation, MedBridge Development, and the Montecito Union School Green Team.

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