Construction sites use a lot of plastic water bottles. This fact is not lost on Brian Bernhoft, a senior superintendent at Abbott with over 35 years of industry experience. After noticing on a couple of large Abbott projects that the jobsites were going through 150 water bottles a day, Bernhoft was determined to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles on his jobsite.
“Construction does enough damage during a typical job if you factor in the carbon footprint from all of the workers traveling to and from work, the amount of fuel we go through with heavy equipment and the manufacturing of all the materials. As an industry we can do so much more and it starts with awareness and change,” Bernhoft said.
So, on his current project, Bernhoft made the jobsite a plastic water bottle-free zone. He replaced plastic water bottles with reusable stainless-steel water bottles and gave them to everyone working on the project, including Abbott workers and subcontractors. The water bottles are presently filled using a water cooler with a five-gallon plastic water jug.
“I would love to go completely plastic free, but at least the five-gallon (plastic water jugs) can be refilled and reused. It would be great to collaborate with someone to design a water-supplied water cooler that can filter water and refill water bottles quickly and take the abuse of a construction site. As most construction sites have some source of water supply, this could be very viable, and then we could go completely plastic free,” Bernhoft said.
As of date, the initiative has already saved roughly 1,200 plastic water bottles from being used and possibly not getting recycled properly and put into landfills, oceans or the environment. They calculated that one five-gallon water jug is equivalent to 40 plastic water bottles (16 oz).
The response has been awesome as most, if not all, the workers support this effort to reduce their carbon footprint. They are proud to contribute with the hope that it may grow momentum to change not only the construction industry but the community.