Penn State University Park has approximately 40,000 students, with 37% or 25,200 (40,000 multiplied by 0.37 equals 14,800 and 40,000-14,800=25,200) living on campus. Assuming that each student takes at least one 10 minute shower per day, and using this useful calculator for calculating energy used for showers (and using national averages since I could not find Penn State’s own exact numbers), each day Penn State uses about 99,515 in energy to heat around 630,000 gallons just for showers. Of course this isn’t an exact calculation, as there is no way to know how long every student showers for and if some students take more than one shower a day because of exercise and such. These numbers, though large, seem normal for the amount of students living on campus. However, if we could decrease the amount of energy used and money spent, our campus would probably be better for it.
The theme for this blogging period got me thinking about water usage at PSU, and more specifically the water bottle usage. I see a lot of people with reusable water bottles (metal, plastic, etc.), but at the same time there are a fair amount of people still using the disposable water bottles that you can buy in bulk at Walmart. Using this site, I found out that every year Penn Staters recycle over 200 tons of plastic bottles (or 7.6 million). In the U.S. though, only 24% of disposable plastic water bottles are recycled, with 600 tons going to landfills where they will remain for hundreds of years. And worldwide, one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, with 31 countries facing water shortages. Penn State has implemented Water Bottle Refilling Stations to help with the distribution of water around campus. Anyone can bring a water bottle to a station (found in many buildings on campus) and refill it with clean water for free. The first of these was installed in 2009 and today around 20 can be found in University Park, with several at the Commonwealth Campuses as well. These refilling stations are mainly located in areas of high traffic (the Hub, big lecture halls, etc.) I think that if this trend continues, we can decrease the amount of waste in landfills from plastic water bottles. This is because we are teaching kids to use these reusable water bottles instead of the disposable kind. I feel that if the students at Penn State that come up with ideas like the refilling stations were to direct that energy further (like Third World Countries), we could really make a difference in the water shortages around the world.