I’m not totally sure when it happened, but I think everyone will agree with me when I say that bottled water is all around us now. Movie theaters, sporting events, gas stations, grocery stores… People buy it in giant cases to keep at home for easy accessibility, or grab one on the go because it’s better than soda, coffee or juice right?
But in my opinion, bottled water is just one more thing that we’ve taken from its natural form and tried to improve upon with additional processing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some bottled water brands that definitely taste really, really good, and yes, it’s really just the essence that has us enthralled but when you’re done enjoying that delicious natural resource that’s been converted into a multi-billion dollar global industry… you have to do something with the bottle.
We’re about 60% water, and the Mayo Clinic recommends that someone like me consume about 2.2 liters of water per day (though I actually drink more like 3 liters per day or more. What can I say, I love water…). So even if I only purchase bottled water six times a week, that’s over 300 bottles a year on my own. I will say that the slight redeeming factor from all this is that many manufacturers have cut back on the quantity of plastic used for their bottles, but the fact still remains that bottled water consumption has increased by over 53% over the past decade, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. And that 88% of plastic bottles aren’t recycled, which means they become trash or (worse) litter.
Last time I was specifying a water cooler, I couldn’t help but notice the new Elkay combination water cooler and bottle filling station, the EZH2O. As someone who’s taken to carrying my stainless steel water bottle around with me, I was intrigued, but didn’t have a chance to do any detailed research until another product review popped up on one of my other favorite websites, BuildingGreen.com. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at what the product offers, and make a mental note to mention it to the owner as a possibility on a future project (one that’s pursuing LEED or not).
Elkay introduced the EZH2O bottle-filling station in February 2010. Gaelen Bell, of the company, told BuildingGreen.com’s Alex Wilson that they’ve experienced “tremendous sales of these units” since it was introduced, with more than 1,500 units sold or shipped since launch. According to Bell, the product is “truly changing the landscape and perception of public water fountains.”
The EZH2O includes a 1.1 (with chiller) or 1.5 (without chiller) gpm fill rate, which is about three times that of a standard drinking fountain and almost as much as a low-flow kitchen sink. This means that filling a bottle would take around 6 seconds. So not only is it easier, it’s now quicker… no more feeling guilty about the people waiting behind me while I fill up my bottle! The unit also features an electronic sensor for touchless, sanitary operation (just place and fill), a New WaterSentry® Plus filter (NSF approved for taste, odor and lead reduction… just like the bottled equivalent), integrated Silver Ion Anti-microbial coating (protects against mold and mildew growth) and a ‘Green Ticker’ which counts the quantity of bottles saved from landfills.
Several different models are available for both new-installations and retrofit applications. The Retro-fit unit pairs with most pushbar activated Elkay ‘EZ style’ water coolers and an ‘in-wall’ design is also available, to match with (one of my favorites) a SwirlFlo drinking fountain for what Elkay calls “the ultimate high-end water station”… and I have to say I agree. Similar to typical drinking fountains, they’re available with an optional Elkay integral 8-gallon chiller or remote chiller located within 15 feet.
Sarah Gudeman is a mechanical design engineer and licensed EIT in the state of Nebraska. Ms. Gudeman also is a LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C) and an active member of the USGBC Nebraska Flatwater Chapter’s board of directors.
She specializes in building energy modeling and audits, sustainable design and environmentally-friendly practices.