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Providing Water in the Break Room

Providing Water in the Break Room

Water is an important item to offer in the break room, whether it is used to fill the coffee maker or an employee’s water glass. There are three main methods for providing your employees with water. However, some water sources are friendlier on your pocketbook and the environment.

Bottled Water
Close-up of a metal beverage tub full of ice and bottled waterIn the last ten to fifteen years, the bottled water industry has exploded around the world into a multi-billion dollar industry. Nations have accepted bottled water as a part of their culture, and many office break rooms have bottles in the fridge or vending machine. Here are some of the key features of bottled water:

  • Convenience. Bottled water provides an easy way to get cold water for your employees, as long as the refrigerator is kept stocked. The bottles themselves are easy to carry around and can be refilled from the tap.
  • Bottles can be recycled. The water bottles are made of a thin plastic that any recycling center should be able to recycle into other plastic products.  
  • Advertised as being healthier than tap water. One of the big selling points of bottled water is that it comes from a natural mountain spring, artesian well or other clean-sounding source of water and is touted as being healthier than tap water.

With the green movement sweeping the nation, bottled water has come under greater scrutiny, and it has been found that 85% of the water bottles that are purchased end up in landfills.1 Also, journalistic investigations have shown that many of the bottled water companies are using regular tap water, not water from a mountain spring as their advertising suggests.

Water Cooler
Installing a water cooler in the break room is another option for providing water to your employees. They give employees a place to stand around and gossip, and there are several reasons why water coolers are a better option than bottled water.A water cooler with hot and cold water spouts

  • Water jugs are refillable. Depending on how much water your company goes through, the water company will come on a daily or weekly basis to replace the water jugs. The empty jugs are taken back to the plant where they are cleaned and refilled. This fact alone makes water coolers a greener option than bottled water.
  • ENERGY STAR® coolers are available. Water coolers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use less electricity to heat and cool the water and have better insulation. These two facts add up to a smaller energy bill. 
  • They dispense hot and cold water. Many water coolers have two separate faucets, one to dispense cold water, the other for hot. The hot water faucet allows employees to make their hot tea, oatmeal or cup-of-noodles faster than using the microwave.
  • Leasing company maintains machine. Water coolers are leased and maintained by private companies, so your maintenance crew does not have to worry about fixing the cooler or replacing the empty jugs.

A water cooler is probably the most eco-friendly form of bottled water. However, this comes at a cost. You have to pay the company to replace the water jugs and maintain the machine, but for some break rooms it is worth the cost.

Tap Water
The easiest and cheapest place to get your water is straight from the tap. Any break room that has a sink is set up to dispense this healthy, eco-friendly source of water.

  • Cheapest source of water. Water from the tap costs pennies, whereas bottled water can cost more than a dollar per bottle and water coolers are a contracted service.
  • Can be filtered to remove any bad tastes. A main turn-off for tap water is a potential for bad taste, but a simple filter can remove most of the impurities that cause foul tastes.
  • Regulated by the EPA. The federal government has safety standards that regulate tap water, and 90% of the municipal water supplies in the United States meet these standards.2

Tap water is the most eco-friendly source of water that a break room can provide. Rather than spending money on bottled water or water cooler services, all you have to provide here is a sink and faucet, and maybe some reusable beverage glasses. These are all one-time purchases that will keep your employees well hydrated, save you money and reduce the amount of plastic in the landfills.

References
1 Nubius Organics, “Plastic Water Bottle Facts,” http://www.nubiusorganics.com/PlasticBottleFacts.aspx (accessed November 17, 2009).
2 EPA, “Ground Water & Drinking Water Frequently Asked Questions,” http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/faq.html (accessed November 17, 2009).