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Students Reduce Local Plastic Pollution By Reusing

With funding from local foundations, CEC’s Rethink the Drink program has installed 16 refill stations on local elementary, junior high, high school and college campuses since the beginning of 2010. As of this month, schools have used the stations a total of 230,239 times and have dramatically reduced their use of disposable plastic water bottles.

The refill stations dispense cold, filtered water with both a quick-fill mechanism and a regular water fountain spout. An electronic ‘counter’ displays the number of uses.

Six stations were installed in the initial year of the program, 10 more during the 2011-2012 school year, and 12 will be added in this school year — including nine schools and three afterschool locations. The schools include McKinley and Washington Elementary Schools in Santa Barbara; Brandon, Kellogg and Foothill in Goleta; and Hapgood, Miguelito and Ruth Clarence in Lompoc. The afterschool locations include Girls Inc. facilities in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara and the Page Youth Center.

CEC staff has appeared at several all-school assemblies, visited more than 15 classrooms and spoken at Back to School Nights to educate students, staff and parents about the negative impacts of bottled water. These impacts include:

  • More than 17 million barrels of oil each year are used to produce bottled water — enough to fuel one million vehicles for a year.
  • Bottled water is not safety-tested as often as tap water, and can cost up to 10,000 times the price of Santa Barbara tap water.
  • Americans throw away more than 2.5 million plastic bottles per HOUR.
  • Fewer than 3 in 10 bottles are recycled.

School communities have responded with enthusiasm to the Rethink the Drink program. Students, staff and teachers are filling up water bottles, coffee pots and athletic drink dispensers at the refill stations. CEC conducted a survey in March 2012 and found that an overwhelming number of students are aware of the machines and are using them instead of purchasing single use bottles.

As Franklin School Principal Casie Kilgore says, “It’s exciting that we are changing the daily lives and routines of over 600 school stakeholders on a daily basis. Watching students walk around with canteens and enjoying water is priceless.”


Rethink the Drink funding partners include the Orfalea Fund and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation.

Kathi King

Director of Outreach and Education Programs at Community Environmental Council
Kathi King is the Director of Outreach and Education Programs at CEC and plays a key role in organizing CEC’s Earth Day Festival and Green Gala. Kathi is behind CEC’s Rethink the Drink bottled water reduction program in area schools. She is on the board of the Montecito Association and on the Sustainability Committee at Santa Barbara High School.

Kathi has a B.S. degree in Telecommunications and Film from San Diego State University and worked in the television industry in Los Angeles for several years.She was an Associate Producer of the still-popular sitcom “Full House.” Kathi and her husband Jeff moved to Santa Barbara in 1998. Their two children attended Santa Barbara public schools for grades K-12 and Kathi served on several PTA boards and committees between 1998 and 2015.She did post-graduate work in Environmental Studies at Santa Barbara City College, where a class project led to Santa Barbara’s single use plastic bag ban.
Kathi King

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