Bottled water – it’s ubiquitous these days, almost like cell phones. I carry mine everywhere – hydration keeps me healthy and helps stave off the effects of long commutes, endless meetings, and recycled air. We all know that drinking water is good for you – but like coffee, we’ve bought into the hype that the fancy bottled variety is better for you than the stuff that comes out of the tap – which ain’t necessarily so, according to an in-depth study of the issue by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Why should they care? Because the petroleum that goes into making all those bottles is considerable, and the landfill space they take up even more so. And not incidentally, they found that much of the bottled water was more contaminated than tap water, or actually was tap water in disguise. Yes, the bottles can be recycled – but it takes even more petroleum to do that. That innocuous-looking bottle of water on your desk, in your car, on your bicycle – is no less than a petroleum hog! Not really what we think of when we imagine a nice clean drink of (supposed-to-be) pure bottled water. And let me not even get started on all those plastic bags that come with groceries, and the newspapers.
OK – what to do? Why do I write about this stuff? I want to be more aware of where our basic needs – food, drink, shelter, energy – come from, and how we can reduce their footprint. With bottled water it’s actually pretty easy – quit buying the stuff. No need to be dehydrated – as Americans, we are lucky to have almost infinite supplies of drinkable water all around us. It just takes a tad bit of planning to refill those handy bottles (yes, you can buy ONE) at the nearest drinking fountain, from your filtered pitcher before you leave home, etc. Then you can have your water and drink it too – when and where you need it – without adding to our petroleum usage or landfill burdens.
So, each year I try to think of a few things I can do to reduce my footprint. I already have a Prius, have switched out all my lightbulbs, and have energy-star appliances. What I need to do is stop using so much plastic. The easier step is to stop buying bottled water and instead to refill the bottles. The harder step is to buy and start taking cloth bags to the grocery store so that I don’t get as many plastic bags. I’ll still get some, but it will help.
I have to admit, I have a weird resistance to reusing plastic bottles. There’s something about it that seems depression-era, hoarding, abundance-nonaffirming. Having grown up on welfare, I think part of this semi-subconscious issue has to do with once being poor and having to reuse things like that. Doing it feels cheap, broke, self-depriving. It’s interesting that I should feel this resistance, and that it takes identification of a specific environmental issue to get even me to stop a flagrant consumption practice. It says a lot about the culture in America and how we perceive wealth and success that most people would never even consider reusing a plastic bottle. I imagine future generations will look back on this time and just shake their heads at how distorted our values became.
Meanwhile – just say no to plastic!