Is it just me or does anyone else cringe when you see all those huge cases of bottled water at the store? All I can think about when I see that is the extraordinary WASTE involved. In 2006, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.1.
You may agree that empty bottles are wasteful, but did you know all the resources that go into making those bottles of water? For instance, it takes about 3 liters of water and approximately 3.4 megajoules of energy to produce and sell a single liter of water in a plastic bottle.
Water is Important
It is so important to drink plenty of water to stay healthy; I’m so glad people want to drink water instead of soda. It is also important that the water we drink be clean and pure. Over the past few decades many people have switched to drinking bottled water exclusively, believing it to be better (safer) than tap water. But is it?
Problem: Source and Purity Deception of Bottled Water
Even though the bottled water industry claims purity, here are some interesting notes:
- A third of all bottled water in the U.S. actually comes from the tap! Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani are two of the many brands that are really filtered tap water.
- The Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigated bottled water quality of 10 major brands and found 38 pollutants altogether, with an average of eight contaminants in each brand. Some of the pollutants are things such as disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication.
Problem: Environmental Impact of Bottled Water
People in the U.S. buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week. That’s enough to circle the globe more than five times!
- Production: Each year, making the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. takes enough oil and energy to fuel a million cars. It takes so much energy to make the bottle and even more to ship it around the planet – and then we drink it in about 10 minutes. That’s a lot of energy and resources to produce a plastic bottle that is meant to be used ONCE.
- Disposal: About 80% of these plastic water bottles will end up in landfills (where they will sit for thousands of years) or in incinerators (where they are burned, releasing toxic pollution.)
To illustrate these points better, watch this eight minute video from storyofbottledwater.org.
Water Solutions: At Home
Instead of keeping cases of individual bottles of water in the fridge for drinking at home, consider drinking filtered tap water around the house. Even the best tap water contains many impurities and therefore it is important to filter it before drinking and cooking with it.
If interested, you can read your city’s water quality report by using EWG’s Tap Water Database.
There are several options for filtering your water at home.
- Carbon filters (pitcher or tap-mounted) are affordable and reduce many common water contaminants, like lead and byproducts of the disinfection process used to treat municipal tap water.
- Install a reverse osmosis filter if you can afford it, to remove contaminants that carbon filters can’t eliminate, like arsenic and perchlorate (rocket fuel).
Another option for home is to refill big containers (2- and 3 gallon size) with self-serve Reverse Osmosis filtered water at a grocery store. We did this for years, refilling about 12 gallons/week at a cost of approximately $0.33/gallon, or $206/year. (We finally saw the benefit of installing a zero-waste reverse osmosis filter under our sink, thus saving trips to the store and money over time.)
Water Solutions: On The Go
Unfortunately, many people think that bottled water is the only convenient way to have good water on the go, perhaps confusing “disposability” with convenience. Thankfully there is an easy solution:
Buy a reusable bottle and fill it with filtered water before you head out the door, or fill it from public sources.
It’s important that the reusable bottle be safe; hard plastic bottles (#7 plastic) can leach a harmful plastics chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) into water.
- If your reusable bottle is plastic, make sure that it’s BPA-free and phthalate-free.
- An even better option is to use a stainless steel water bottle. We have several big sizes for my husband and I and several small bottles for our son. We like the Klean Kanteen brand for ourselves and the Crocodile Creek brand for our son.
- Glass bottles are probably the best option due to no leaching (as far as I am aware) of contaminants into the water. But unfortunately it can’t be used in all situations due to its obvious ability to break. Love Bottle carries some designer bottles and you can create your own design to put on the bottle! Or be on the lookout for glass “food” bottles that you already purchase.
- Another safety tip: Don’t reuse bottled water bottles. The plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release plastics chemicals.
When our “on the go” time will be longer than just one water bottle in length, we either fill up several bottles or we fill up our 2- and 3-gallon jugs with filtered water from our RO unit and bring them along, to fill up our stainless steel bottles.
Water Solutions: Party or Gathering
Whether you are entertaining a party of four or 40, you can still provide clean water without resorting to individual bottles of water.
- Fill a pitcher or jug with spigot (or other large container) with filtered water and then pour into glasses for your guests.
- If you don’t want to use glasses, especially if some of the guests are children, consider stocking up on reusable BPA-free plastic cups (instead of disposable cups). Kids Konserve makes a Party Pak which contains reusable cups, plates, and utensils. The Party Paks come in two sizes (25 of each piece or 12 of each piece).
Thirsty for More Information?
If you want to read more about this subject, here are some resources:
- Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, by Peter Gleick
- Inside The Bottle: An Expose of the Bottled Water Industry, by Tony Clarke
- Tapped (a film)
- A Lighter Footprint (a film)
- Environmental Working Group Bottled Water Research
- Pacific Institute Bottled Water and Energy Fact Sheet
- Learn the Facts from Filter For Good
- Bottled Water Myth Versus Reality from StoryofBottledWater.org
- Energy Footprint of Bottled Water from Livescience.com
- Water-Energy Connection from National Environmental Education Week
Inspiration to Make Changes
As you ponder the information I just shared, I will leave you with the following quote. Hopefully you will be inspired to do something.
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
— Helen Keller
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com