Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

It’s my latest crazy-making thing: bottled water. At a recent work conference, I think they went through four cases of the stuff, and I had no control over it. Had I control, it would not have been there in the first place. I was trying to figure out how to get a point across to people about the futility, frivolity, and wastefulness of bottled water without sounding like a crazed hippie, and when I could not figure out a non-preachy way to do it, I said nothing and just stewed.

Here are a few facts about that lovely bottle of Dasani, Aquafina, Fiji, Poland Spring, or whichever brand you choose to lug around with you, for whatever reason:

* It’s estimated that it takes anywhere from 6 to 24 times the water in a bottle of water to create a bottle of water.

* The UN estimates that if the world took ½ of what it spends on bottled water (100 billion annually) and invested it in water infrastructure and treatment, everyone in the world could have access to clean drinking water.

* The EPA has more stringent quality standards for tap water than the FDA has for bottled beverages.

* 40% of bottled water is tap water.

* Only 14% of plastic water bottles are recycled, and a plastic bottle in a landfill will take 1,000 years to biodegrade. Incinerating them releases chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. 40 percent of the bottles that are sent to recycling are exported, consuming even more resources.

* PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles (plastic #1) are intended for single usage and some studies have shown that toxins from PET #1 bottles can leach into the water. These bottles are also derived from crude oil, consuming even more fossil fuels. Simply making the bottles consumes 17 million barrels of oil a year, which could fuel more than 1 million cars.

* 1.5 billion barrels of oil are consumed each year to produce the plastic used for water bottles (the equivalent of fueling 100,000 cars for one year).

* Tap water arrives at our homes through an existing infrastructure that is energy efficient, while bottled water has to be transported using fossil fuels.

* Water shortages have begun to occur around bottling plants in Texas and the Great Lakes region, threatening farmers and fishers.

* Dasani is owned by Coca-Cola, Aquafina is owned by Pepsi, Poland Spring is owned by Nestle.

* Bottled water can cost around $10.00 a gallon, which is more than a gallon of gas.

Get your annual water quality report from your local water service, which will tell you what contaminants are in your water and at what levels. My water here in St. Paul, for instance, is pretty good. Learning what is in your water can help you to make informed decisions about what kind of filtering system you may want to have, if any. Then get yourself a nice stainless steel water bottle, and bring your water with you wherever you go.

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