Elkay employees have done a river cleanup with Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) once a year since 2012, but it wasn’t until LL&W founder Chad Pregracke saw one of the company’s bottle filling stations in an airport that the light bulb went off.

“I can’t tell you how many plastic bottles I’ve fished out of the river over the years,” said Pregracke. “All of a sudden I’m looking at this product that could keep plastic bottles out of the river in the first place. Our rivers are a national treasure, and it’s great to be partnering with a company that makes a product right here in the USA that will make it possible for future generations to enjoy the river, just as I have my whole life.”

Named “Hero of the Year” by CNN a couple years ago, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters in 1998 at the age of 23. Since the project’s inception, Pregracke, his crew and more than 87,000 volunteers have collected 8.4 million pounds of debris from U.S. rivers.

“Pregracke truly is an American hero,” said Ted Hamilton, Elkay’s vice president and general manager of emerging markets plumbing channel. “We are proud to have him as a brand ambassador for our ezH2O bottle filling stations.”

Pregracke travels across the country throughout the year, speaking to organizations such as colleges, hospitals and companies with large campuses who have an interest in protecting our nation’s waterways. Many of these same organizations could benefit from a bottle filling station, and Pregracke is pleased to serve as a spokesperson, making connections for his audiences between LL&W’s mission and the role that Elkay’s bottle fillers can play in reducing plastic bottle waste. Pregracke has also agreed to attend some of Elkay’s upcoming events and trade shows over the next 12 months to help tell this story.

In addition to the agreement with Pregracke and the donation to LL&W, the company will also donate a bottle filling station for use on LL&W’s barge used for river cleanups throughout the year. The donation was made at a river cleanup with employees from Elkay’s plant in Savanna, Ill., where the bottle filling stations are made.

Elkay introduced the bottle filling station in 2010 in response to consumer demand for drinking water and the growing concern regarding the environmental impact of bottled water. “Elkay has long provided water through our drinking fountains,” said Hamilton. “However, drinking fountains aren’t designed for filling water bottles. Our ezH2O product was developed specifically to address that need and can now be found on college and business campuses as well as in airports, parks and sports facilities across the country.”

Elkay’s partnership announcement with LL&W coincides with the launch of new ezH2O models that offer additional environmental benefits. “Operators can power down the refrigeration on the unit so water is dispensed, but the refrigeration portion of the unit will be powered off, which allows buildings to cut the energy usage of the ezH2O product dramatically,” said Hamilton.

(Pictured above): Ted Hamilton of Elkay (left) presents a check to Living Lands & Waters founder Chad Pregracke (right) at the company’s recent river cleanup.