Stop and take a moment to think the next time you reach for a bottle of water at the convenience store or a case of water at Sams Club. Water bottles are everywhere. We buy them because they’re easy and convenient, and because we think they are healthy for us. Are they? They certainly aren’t healthy for the environment.
In reality, most bottled water is just purified pulblic tap water, but it’s big business with worldwide sales estimated widely between $50 and $100 billion each year, increasing annually by 7%.
Is it a good value? No. Bottled water can cost 500 to 4,000 times more than tap water. Aquafina or Dasani in a 20 oz size in a vending machine for 1dollar is 5 cents an ounce. Both brands are essentially filtered tap water, bottled close to their distribution points. Most municipal water costs less than 1 cent per gallon. Consider another widely sold liquid: gasoline. It is pumped as crude oil from the other side of the world, refined, and shipped again to your local station and still sells for about 2 cents an ounce.
Bottled water means garbage…..and lots of it. In 2005, 28 billion bottles of water were sold, mostly in PET containers, according to the Container Recycling Institute. In 2004, the last year that data was available, 85% of all con-carbonated PET bottles ended up in landfills, or as litter in parks, and along roadways, that’s 24 billion empty water bottles – 66 million every day.
Let’s reduce our carbon footprint…..it’s estimated that the production of bottled water for the US in 2006 required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy used for transportation. This released over 2.5 million tons of CO2. More energy is used to transport the water to the plant, then the filled bottles to warehouses, stores, homes, and then to landfills or recycling centers. The total amount of energy embedded in the use of bottled water is the equivalent of filling a plastic water bottle one quarter full of oil, according to the Pacific Institute.
What about the safety of the bottled water? It is regulated by the FDA, which has weaker regulations than the EPA for tap water. Bottled water sold within states is regulated only by state agencies.
If you are concerned about the quality or taste of your tap water an inexpensive carbon filter will turn most tap water sparkling fresh at a fraction of bottled water’s cost. Re use water bottles, and keep them filled in your refrigerator, ready to go at a moment’s notice for convenience’s sake. Or buy a stainless steel thermos and use it when you are on the go. Ask for a glass of water when you buy a sandwich, and serve pitchers of water with cups….make an effort to skip the cases of bottled water if you can.
It’s more than just the water, just the bottle: it’s our health, our environment, and our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
(information compiled from Chris Baskind in Health, and Sierra Club)