Thursday, March 01, 2007

Green Thoughts - Lose the Bottle

For the most part I will refrain from using this blog for preachy diatribes, but I am compelled to remind readers of an ongoing problem. Our addiction to bottled water has reached epidemic proportions, and the senselessness of it all is casually overlooked on a daily basis. Newsday recently reported that bottled water is an $11 billion industry, and at least 25 percent of it is nothing more than filtered tap water. Why stock your fridge with bottled water at about $7 per gallon? The average cost of a gallon of tap water in the US is about $2 for 1,000 gallons.

Environmentally, the impact of bottle fabrication, packaging, the excessive use of fossil fuels in shipping (sometimes great distances), energy used in refrigeration and the countless numbers of bottles that end up in landfills despite our heightened recycling efforts is all damaging and irresponsible. The bottled water industry generates 1.5 million tons of polluting plastics each year. Moving large quantities of fresh water from its place of origin contributes to freshwater depletion. Indeed, 25 percent of all water bottled and traded is consumed outside its country of origin. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that making bottles to meet the US demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.

And the health benefits of bottled water appear to be overstated, as recent studies have shown similar levels of bacteria and impurities as tap water. Consider these published facts:

In one study, published in The Archives of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland, and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. (New York Times On-line 8-1-05)

Both bottled and tap water suffer from occasional contamination problems, but US water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for tap water are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water.
New York City tap water, for example, was tested 430,600 times during 2004 alone. (New York Times On-Line 8-1-05).
Many bottled water suppliers use filtration systems that remove fluoride, leading to an increase in cavities, according the American Dental Association.

I’m not suggesting we ban bottled water, only the consumption based on laziness, convenience and fashion. As I recall, it was celebrities and models that launched the fashionable trend of bottled water. I distinctly remember Sylvester Stallone years ago stating that he only drinks Evian (naïve spelled backwards, by the way). More recently, celebrities have been seen with premium Bling H20, priced at $35 per bottle. If it takes celebrities to guide the public mindset, then so be it. The solution is simple:

Get yourself a home filtration system and a refillable water bottle. Your cost per gallon just dropped about 97 percent and your environmental responsibility just skyrocketed. Think about it.

Further reading:

Recycling Failures
Dasani Disaster
The Purity Myth
Recycling Misconceptions
Bling Water

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Blogger Casey said...

Many buy bottled water simply because they can quickly grab an ice cold drink from the fridge. Colder than tap, anyway.
Solution: Just put a kool aid jug filled guessed it...water in the fridge. Ice cold water without the plastic baggage, plus you save some coinage.
Nice post.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are right in that the mindset on bottled water will change as it becomes the next, new thing. Hopefully, Al Gore with his new Oscar and celebrity friends can carry the ball - or the bottle as the case may be.

9:43 AM  

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