They may seem an unlikely place to go searching for environmental and economic benefits, but the replacement earlier this year of 25 bottled-water coolers in Widener, Lamont and Pusey libraries with eight filtered-water dispensers has resulted in both. While the new coolers haven’t reduced HCL’s water consumption – library staff members still drink as much water as ever – the reduced number of coolers has translated into a significant drop in power consumption, as well as dramatic savings in bottled water.

Initiated by HCL Operations Director Paul Bellenoit and Associate Librarian Rebecca Graham, Harvard College Library Sector leaders for the University Green House Gas Reduction Program, the water cooler replacement is one of a handful of ways the libraries are working to help Harvard meet its sustainability goals. Other projects have included the installation of occupancy sensors and compact fluorescent bulbs, changes to HVAC systems and the installation of water-conserving bathroom fixtures.

“The cost of running the coolers is still the same – about $100 annually – but it’s now just eight versus the 25 we previously had,” Bellenoit said. “The savings in electricity usage have been substantial, and we’ve also cut down on greenhouse gases produced by the trucks that delivered the bottled water.”

The benefits haven’t only come in the library’s sustainability efforts. The change has also resulted in thousands in savings, both in electricity and water costs, Bellenoit said.

“Simply reducing the number cut the electricity costs of running the coolers by almost 70 percent,” he said. “But the savings in terms of water costs have been tremendous. It cost 64 cents per gallon for the bottled water, but for city water, which the new coolers use, the cost is only 1.3 cents per gallon.”

Thus far, Bellenoit said, the new coolers have been installed in Widener, Lamont and Pusey, and will soon be installed at the Technical Services facility at 625 Mass. Ave.