189th AW Maintainers Save Turtles, One Bottle of Water at a Time

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melody Daniel
  • 189th Airlift Wing

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, AR -- The 189th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group building recently hit a milestone in their ongoing effort to be better stewards of the environment. The unit has several water fountain stations where airmen can refill their personal water bottles, an effort that can save thousands of water bottles each year. An average American spends about $5.00 per week on bottled water, with sales topping more than $14 million per year in previous years.

Any unit can request to have water bottle dispensers installed on existing water fountains by sending a Form 3 to the 189th Civil Engineering Squadron. After a request is made, the CES inspects existing water fountains to determine if the bottle dispenser can be installed. In some cases, including the bottle filling station in the 189th AW MXG breakroom, an entire fountain change is complete.

“Staff Sgt. Tracie Winston requested the bottle filler,” said Lt. Col. Sarah O’Banion, Commander of the 189th Maintenance Squadron. “The recessed water bottle filler she requested was a little more challenging since it was recessed into a wall and required additional studs and sheetrock work along with plumbing parts.”

The station in the breakroom recently surpassed the 100,000 bottle milestone, which leads to far reaching impacts on the environment. In addition to the aforementioned plastic recycling issue, more than 17 million barrels of oil are used to create 50 billion disposable plastic water bottles each year. A lower impact on the environment through the responsible use of natural resources and a lesser need for recycling due to lowered use also benefits the environment in ways that aren’t always seen in landlocked Arkansas.

“We’re saving sea turtles one refill at a time,” says Tech. Sgt. Andrew Baker, referring to the dangers plastic in the ocean poses to aquatic life. A 2018 study indicated that more than half of known sea turtle fatalities involved ingesting plastic debris in the ocean.
The 189th MXG plans to continue to its efforts to contribute to the Air Force’s green initiatives.

“Although the primary benefit to water bottle fillers is for sanitary purposes, the fillers align with green initiatives in a variety of ways,” said O’Banion. “We’re able to reduce plastic bottle consumption over the lifespan of the bottle filler. That’s a huge impact to the environment around us.”