Fill ’Er Up

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Cold, pure water is a baseline perk for office workers. Hydrated workers, after all, are more productive than workers who are as dried out as the discarded husks of molting insects.

But if you’re the one in charge of making sure your coworkers are hydrated, consider looking beyond bottled water.

While some readers may be shocked to hear this, many companies still provide bottled water to employees and guests, despite the high environmental cost of creating plastic bottles and dealing with plastic waste.

And you’re not off the hook if your office gets its water from those huge 18-gallon bottles delivered once or twice a month. Those bottles are made of plastic, too. And the environmental footprint of having them delivered must be factored in as well.

So what’s the alternative? Tap water can be unreliable in regard to taste and quality at times, and pointing employees to the kitchen sink for hydration feels a little—cheap. It might also have the unintended consequence of sending thirsty workers to the soda machine for beverages.

Instead, consider a bottle filling station.
Bottle filling stations come in different sizes and shapes. Some mount to walls; some stand alone on a counter. Some just keep the water chilled; others have cold, hot, and room-temperature options. You can even get a model that keeps a count of plastic bottles not used. Bottle filling stations vary depending on your workspace, but regardless of the style, they beat individual plastic water bottles. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Cheaper. Water in plastic bottles is 300 times more expensive than tap water alone. Plastic bottles are also often half full when they’re thrown away or recycled;  when the water isn’t consumed, the cost is even higher on a per-gallon-consumed basis.
  2. Safer. Bottled water is actually subject to fewer regulations for contaminants and bacteria than tap water.  While tap water in some locations has been shown to be unsafe, most of the U.S. has a very safe water supply. Making sure your bottle filling station supports filtration makes it an even safer choice.
  3. Billboard. Refill stations provide a spot for advertising events. Use the refill station’s  captive audience to promote your employee assistance program, upcoming events, or to get out the word on any new policies and procedures.
  4. Branding. Encourage use of the refill station by providing a branded water bottle to all new hires. Glass or stainless steel are sturdy materials, and reusable bottles are a great hydration tool for work. Make sure to have a nice-looking pitcher and (reusable) glassware on hand for meetings with outside visitors.
  5. Green. Think of all the plastic you and your company aren’t using and how much less waste you’re producing. This shows that you care about the environment.

Choosing and Installing a Refill Station
Elkay has a wide variety of wall-mounted water stations. They range from automatic streams that fill cups or bottles to water-fountain styles. All Elkay stations come with installation instructions but also provide a specialist to install for you for a hassle-free start to your water-drinking adventure. Elkay water stations are available through many online retailers. Visit Elkay’s website for more information about where to buy—both in person and online.

Waterlogic is another company that provides bottleless water stations. These can stand alone on countertops and don’t require wall installation. Waterlogic also provides cold, hot, or even sparkling water. There’s a wide range of prices and special features, so it’s important to focus on what makes sense for your workspace.

Although there may be a period of adjustment after switching to bottle fillers, and some workers may grumble about the change, the savings to your bottom line and the benefit to the environment will be worth it. And, ultimately, workers will likely come to appreciate the eco-friendliness of making the switch.

Dana Lester has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. She is passionate about holistic wellness, eating fruit, and writing.


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Our online magazine offers a taste of workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. It features recipes for easy, delicious work meals and tips on quick office workouts. It's also an opportunity to learn about our GoodWorks program, which helps those in need in our communities and supports small, sustainable farms.