So you’ve tossed your plastic bags to the side for a reusable cloth bag and you’re on your way to the farmers market to buy some sustainable goods but you’re a bit thirsty. You grab a bottled water on your way to the market without a second thought. On your path to a sustainable life you might consider trading in that plastic bottle for a more environmentally friendly version.
First off bottled water might not be as safe as you think. In fact, tap water which is regulated, consistently tested and monitored by the EPA is likely to be safer than bottle water which falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA. The FDA has less frequent bacteria testing, no mandatory reports of violations to federal officials, and no filtration or disinfection requirements, according to Business Insider. Additionally, a 2009 report by Food And Water Watch revealed that approximately 47.8% of bottled water is derived from tap water.
Not only is bottled water questionable in regards to safety, but also it costs significantly more than tap water. A 20 ounce bottled of water costs about five cents per ounce, while tap water costs less than one cent per gallon according to the Mother Nature Network. With spending at around $100 billion each year, and consumption increasing 10% annually, the bottled water industry is increasingly more lucrative. In fact, Americans drank more bottle water in 2009 than milk or beer. Though China isn’t far behind consuming 21 billion liters of bottled water in 2009.
Aside from the safety and cost issues there is the fact that plastic pollution from bottles is overwhelming. Totaling 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year, which requires 47 million gallons of oil to produce according to MNN, plastic bottles are simply put not a sustainable way to quench your thirst. A surprisingly small percentage of plastic bottles, one in four, are actually recycled due to the fact that there is no deposit for them. Even when the bottles are recycled the plastic can only be reused for non food products.
So what can you do to avoid contributing to this endless cycle of plastic bottled pollution? Buy a reusable bottle or thermos. This will minimize or eliminate your need for plastic bottles. Fill up your new eco friendly thirst quencher with tap water. Use a filter if you are worried about water safety. Also, simply stop buying water in plastic bottles and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If you do buy water in a plastic bottle, be sure to recycle it! With just a few simple steps you can dramatically reduce plastic bottle usage and minimize your carbon footprint.
Want to know more about how you (and the environment) are being cheated through the sale of bottled water? Here’s a great video by the team behind Annie Leonard and her Story of Stuff project, The Story of Bottled Water: