Anglers and hikers who get parched at Monee Reservoir this year will have a new option to quench their thirst: boxed water.
Boxes of water made mostly from paper will replace single-use plastic water bottles at the Monee Reservoir Visitor Center concessions stand when the building reopens on Tuesday, March 2, after a winter hiatus.
Ditching plastic water bottles and opting for boxed water is just one of several eco-friendly operational practices the Forest Preserve District has implemented in recent years.
The water containers are made by Boxed Water is Better, a Holland, Michigan-based company that touts the many benefits to switching from plastic water bottles to boxed water, including keeping plastic out of oceans and landfills.
The boxes, which are refillable and reusable, are made from 100 percent recyclable materials and are free of BPA, a toxin found in some plastics. Also, the production of boxed water has a lower carbon footprint, uses fewer fossil fuels and has a lower impact on the ozone layer than plastic or aluminum water containers, according to the company's website.
Jason Stevenson, concessions manager at Monee Reservoir, said after researching options, the Boxed Water company seemed to be the best choice.
“It seems to be a great company that mirrors our own values here at the Forest Preserve,” he said.
In addition to producing sustainable water containers, Boxed Water also plants two trees for every social media post tagged with #betterplanet and it donates proceeds from boxed water sales to the Ocean Blue Project, which is attempting to clean 3,000 miles of beaches.
Monee Reservoir sells around 400 bottles of water a year. The new 1-liter water boxes will cost $2, the same as a plastic bottle of water in previous years. Grabbing a box of water instead of a bottle might be a new experience for some customers, but Stevenson said he believes they will easily adapt.
“Some will love the move to boxed water and we will have to educate others with the materials that the company is sending us," he said. "But, in general, I believe our customer base will take it quite well. This is an exciting switch for us and we will be continuing the search for similar opportunities to bring additional ecologically safe and green products to Monee Reservoir.”
Offering boxed water is just one of several green initiatives that the Forest Preserve District has implemented in its operations in recent years. Here are some other examples:
Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon recently installed touchless bathroom faucets powered by solar panels, motion-detection lights in the bathrooms and water bottle filling stations. The upgrades will help save water and electricity and provide an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles.
Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville is the site of a new electric vehicle car charging station, which members of the public can use for a fee. Will County Green awarded the Forest Preserve District a $3,500 grant that will offset some of the station’s cost. Also, touchless water bottle filling stations were installed at Isle a la Cache Museum this winter, which will serve museum visitors and the many cyclists who bike the nearby Centennial/Veterans Memorial and I&M Canal trails. The stations also will make it easier for schoolchildren to fill their water bottles during field trips.
Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township has adopted a “Gifts that Give Back” theme for its gift shop, which means the items that are for sale come from environmentally friendly, fair trade and educational vendors. Items include sustainably sourced walking sticks, chocolate bars that send profits back to farmers, and local honey from Iroquois County.
Lynn Kurczewski, director of the Forest Preserve’s visitor services department, said she is encouraging her staff to search for additional green items that can be sold or installed.
“I want them to research whether items are sustainable, made from 100 percent recycled materials, are plastic-free, or have reduced/recyclable packaging,” she said.
The biggest push is to go plastic-free, she added. The plan was delayed a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Kurczewski said it is back on track this year.
“My goal is to form a team this year, to look at purchasing throughout the organization and share options and alternative products we find with all departments,” she said. “One of the District’s six core values is environmental awareness. I think that the Forest Preserve must be a leader and set an example, both internally and externally, by choosing recyclable, sustainable, plastic-free items whenever possible.”
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