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Karan Verma, ’16, Draws Inspiration from UAlbany’s Living/Learning Community to Bring H2O Zone to Campus

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 3, 2014) -- This fall, a new H2O Zone located in the Campus Center is providing free filtered and seltzer water to all University at Albany students, faculty and staff. The complimentary hydration station is a result of the efforts of Karan Verma, a B.A./M.P.A., who has made curbing the number disposable water bottles consumed at UAlbany a priority.

Karan Verma, '16, who helped bring H2O Zone to UAlbany
Verma hopes to find a career in leadership facilitation where he can utilize his interest in sustainability. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Last year, approximately 500 bottles of water per day were consumed in the Campus Center. This statistic propelled Verma and a group of students to start working alongside UAlbany's Office of Environmental Sustainability and University Auxiliary Services (UAS) to review the issue, conduct preliminary research and submit recommendations to the campus community by Fall 2015.

A native of Chicago, Verma first became interested in UAlbany's carbon footprint when he became part of the Living/Learning Community for Environmental Sustainability.

"I was exposed to the issue of water usage by some great faculty, one of which was Professor of Biology Gary Kleppel, who explained how the University of Vermont had instituted a bottle ban," said Verma. With guidance from UAlbany's Director of Sustainability Mary Ellen Mallia, Verma was provided the necessary tools and connections to create a proposal and offer it to UAS.

Agreeing with the benefits of the proposal, UAS opened the H2O Zone and has begun distributing 6,000 free water bottles to students, with the goal of curbing disposable plastic water bottles from entering the landfill, utlimately reducing the University's carbon footprint.

The hydration station is a brightly designed 150 square foot retail space that now houses three Crysalli countertop water units with usage meters attached. Each unit has two spouts, for a total of five regular filtered water spouts and one seltzer spout. Customers can fill their reusable bottles for free anytime during the Campus Center’s hours of operation.

Over the course of the semester, Verma will study the impact of the new station as part of his degree program, examining accessibility, convenience, and preferences from the student population.

“Setting up the H2O Zone at this time made sense. As the students begin their research, we are able to help them assess usage, gather customer feedback and help drive the community towards a more sustainable behavior pattern from the project’s onset," states UAS Executive Director Stephen Pearse.

In addition to the H2O Zone, the University is currently working on installing more water fountains with bottle filling attachments and dining services uses hydration stations as the standard for catered events and in the all-you-care-to-eat dining rooms.

"The reason I chose UAlbany was the ample opportunity to get involved and forge your own path," said Verma. "In my own experience, it was Toastmasters, The Great Danes Debate Team, and my Living Learning Community, along with the great relationships I fostered with my classmates and professors."

Verma also notes the flexibility his degree program offers, as it allows him to earn both a bachelors and master’s in public policy, with the option to select concentrations in environmental policy and sociology.

After graduation, Verma hopes to put his degrees to good use by finding a career in leadership facilitation where he can work to make positive social change.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.