Oak Brook inventor creates a faster water fountain
BY KATIE FOUTZ For Sun-Times Media
Honored for innovation: Elkay Manufacturing Co. Director Rod Magnuson, of commercial plumbing products, is proud to be a winner of a 2011 Chicago Innovation Award. The Oak Brook company was honored for its water bottle refilling machine. The company also makes faucets, sinks and more. | Mary Compton~For Sun-Times Media
100 Million Bottle March
“Like” the Elkay campaign on Facebook and follow updates as EZH2O users share their total number of bottles saved from waste. By the end of 2011, the count was more than 2.8 million. Visit www.facebook.com/EZH2O.
Try filling a water bottle at a drinking fountain.
It gets awkward. It takes forever. Lines form. Water spills.
Elkay Manufacturing Co., based in Oak Brook, used this awkwardness as inspiration for a new twist on the old drinking fountain. It created the EZH2O wall-mounted system, which allows users to refill a 16-ounce water bottle in about six seconds — three times faster than traditional drinking fountains — with cold, filtered water.
A sensor starts and stops the water automatically. And a digital “green ticker” displays how many 16-ounce plastic bottles have been saved from the landfill. By the end of 2011, the company had counted more than 2.8 million bottles saved.
Encouraging people to shift from disposable plastic bottles to reusable ones has a major impact on the environment. According to Reuseit.com:
2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were thrown away in one year (2008).
Tap water is cleaner, cheaper and healthier than store-bought water.
60 billion single-use drink containers were purchased in 2006, and three out of four were thrown out directly after use.
Plastic bottles are among the most prevalent source of pollution found on our beaches.
Plastic trash absorbs pre-existing organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs.
Contractors have installed Elkay bottle refilling stations at universities, churches, gyms and other public places. College of DuPage installed five of them at its main campus in Glen Ellyn in November.
In fact, the EZH2O earned a Chicago Innovation Award in 2011 — one of 10 winners described by the awards organization as “innovations that uniquely fill unmet needs, spark a competitive response in the marketplace, exceed market expectations, achieve financial success and improve people’s lives.”
It’s an improvement on something the company has made for nearly 40 years. Vicki Slomka, chief human resources officer, said Elkay’s corporate values create a workplace that fosters such inspiration.
“Our umbrella value is ‘we are in business forever,’” she said. “It’s rare for an organization to be family-held for over 90 years, especially in today’s merger-and-acquisition and private-equity world. We want to leave the business stronger than when we started.”
With inspired products like EZH2O, Elkay is making sure the planet is a little stronger, too.