Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Is the Tide Turning Against Bottled Water?

Americans have long been sold on the idea that bottled water is healthier than tap water. I remember back in the mid-'80s there was a scare about lead water in Boston's drinking water, and despite the fact that you'd have to drink something like 10 gallons of tap water a day to have gotten lead poisoning from it, The Green Mom sent The Green Miles to the doctor for a blood test (I was fine).

But isolated incidents aside, our tap water is just as healthy for us as bottled water. In fact, more and more bottled water companies are admitting their bottled water is tap water:

PepsiCo Inc. is the latest company to offer some clarity about the source of its top-selling bottled water as it announced on Friday it would change the label on Aquafina water bottles to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water.

Last month alone, a barrage of news hit the industry: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom banned city-funded purchases of bottled water; New York City launched an ad campaign called “Get Your Fill” to promote the benefits of tap water; and the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution to bring attention to the importance of public water systems and the negative impact of bottled water.
Even the Arlington County Board is getting into the act:

County Board members have a new environmental mission: Limiting the use of disposable, plastic water bottles.

Board member Jay Fisette is spearheading the effort, and has the support of his colleagues.

“Whenever possible, we're going to be drinking tap water,” County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson said.
Why the sudden swing against bottled water? Because while tap water and bottled water are a wash (no pun intended) when it comes to our health, bottled water is vastly worse for our environment.

Think about it -- there's environmental damage at every step of the way:

- The bottles themselves are made out of plastic -- a petroleum product
- The bottles are then placed on ships or trucks and hauled thousands of miles to your local store, burning gasoline all along the way
- Once the water is consumed, 90% of the bottles end up in a landfill
You can read more about the environmental impact of bottled water here.

So what should you do? Drink bottled water as little as possible. It's not hard. At home, fill your glass from the tap or use a filtered pitcher. If you're heading to the coffee shop, bring a reusable mug. At work, drink from the fountain (if your office cooler has a big plastic jug on the top, it's bottled water -- ask your boss to switch to a filtered cooler). If you're heading to a softball game, fill a reusable bottle.

You won't just be saving the environment, you'll be saving yourself money, too. Considering how much joy I get over saving 50 cents here and there at the grocery store, you can imagine how satisfying it is to save $4 on bottled water every time I go to a Nats game by bringing my own bottle and filling it up at the fountain.

And if you're out and about and you need to buy a bottle of water, that's fine. Just make sure the bottle gets recycled, even if you have to throw the flattened empty in your briefcase, backpack, or purse until you find a bin.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that environment is a strong factor in choosing which products to support. I've started drinking water from a filter at home, although I do continue to drink bottled water on the go- and I still drink Aquafina- although it's true their water originates from a public source, it then goes through 7 additional steps of purification, which is outlined pretty clearly on their website. I do think it's unfortunate that more people don't recycle however- I think it would really help to install recycling bins for plastic alongside trashcans and in office buildings.

Googla Monster said...

I would like someone from the Arlington County health department (if there is such a thing ;) to recommend a type of bottle for reusing as a water bottle. By someone, I mean an expert, of course. Why do I ask that? I've heard that it's bad to reuse the plastic bottles that water is sold in because the plastic breaks down over time, especially after washing. I like to be able to clean drinking cups, etc. in very hot sudsy water from time to time. Now I do have a Rubbermaid type water bottle, but it has a disgusting taste and smell.

Julie Lawson said...

Do you take a nalgene to Nats games? Has security ever given you a hard time about it? A few games ago I was passing through security, and the "guard" said that next time I shouldn't bring it because it's not technically allowed. I checked with Guest Services and they said it's banned under the "no hard containers" rule. But of course I see a dozen or more other nalgenes all night.

If they're committed to making the new stadium green, I hope the team/Lerners will permit empty nalgenes next year.

Anonymous said...

please watch this penn & teller clip - I send all of my friends to it who aren't necessarily interested in cutting back on their bottled water usage.

Anonymous said...

googla monster --

the true environmentalist skips the nalgene and opts for a sigg:

MB said...

We love our Sigg bottles! Locally you can get them at Whole Foods or Wegmans.