Debra Mullis Headshot

Everyone who has ever lived in a residence hall knows dorm showers leave something to be desired, but I think what is truly impossible to live with is the sinks. I’m sure everyone has tried, and failed, to fit a bottle, a bowl or a plate under the spout and realized it’s not going to happen. 

I promise you are not the only one dealing with this struggle. Across campus, sinks seem to have an average distance between the faucet and the drain of 7-7.5 inches, based on measurements I took in Wood Hall and Bragaw Hall. They were designed to fit a pair of hands, a toothbrush and maybe a small teacup, but definitely not designed for the various activities that require a sink, like cooking, washing dishes, etc.

Meanwhile, popular water bottle brands like Hydro Flask are typically over 10 inches tall. Even regular plastic bottles are typically 8 inches tall. There is simply no way you could get either under the faucet to be able to fill up your water bottle, regardless of the brand or type.

In Wood Hall, for example, there are two options for getting water. I can put shoes on and walk outside with my keys and my ID to our office to the only water bottle refill station, which is shared among the 470 residents in Wood Hall. My other option is to use a small cup to transfer water into my Brita or reusable bottle. Both choices are an inconvenience, so I am never surprised when I see the recycling bin filled with plastic bottles. 

Even if people are recycling most, or even all, of the plastic bottles they use in their dorms, this is not a sustainable solution. According to NC State’s Office of Sustainability, less than four out of every ten plastic bottles end up getting recycled. Adding more bottle refill stations would decrease the overall amount of water bottles that are thrown into recycling in the first place.

While getting adult-sized sinks would be wonderful, I recognize the difficulty of such a big project, which is why adding more water bottle refill stations is a more realistic update. 

There is an abundance of refill stations pretty much everywhere on campus except residence halls. For example, just earlier this year, Hunt Library added four stations, two of which were covered by an $18,500 grant from the Student Sustainability Fund. With how much time students spend in their rooms, funds also need to be directed to improvements in residence halls. 

Yes, it is an expensive project, but implementing these stations has been proven to work at reducing single-use plastics. The numbers are right there every time you use one of the stations. Just a few dispersed on every other floor would be a huge step forward from the current situation. 

University Housing did lose a significant amount of revenue over the 2020-21 academic year, but it is recovering, with housing back at full capacity. We students are paying thousands to shower with shoes on; I think a semi-convenient, environmentally-friendly place to get a drink is a small demand.