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.
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