Category Archives: Books

A little respect for water please

Water system new pump

Or as Aretha Franklin would say “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to”…water? Yes, especially when it comes to water. In developed nations our expectation for water is that it will always be available and it should always be cheap. While I agree wholeheartedly with these ideas the situation is a little more complicated than that.

In this article written by Kit Roane for CNN about Charles Fishman’s new book The Big Thirst – The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water he discusses the author’s views on respecting our water supply. Fishman believes that our expectations for cheap water are causing problems that will endanger the future of our water system. For example, we protest against increases in the cost of water from the utility company, but willingly fork over far more per liquid ounce to buy a cheap plastic bottle. According to Fishman we spend as much per year buying bottled water (over $20 billion) than we do “on sustaining the entire water system of the country.” The result is overburdened water systems that are relying on old and often leaking pipelines to deliver public water.

Rather than invest in bottled water and hand over our hard earned money to private corporate giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and Danone, we should be investing more money into the water system to ensure that cheap water is still available in the future. Fishman points out that India’s water system was working fine in 1947, but now excessive pollution of water supplies and a failure to invest appropriately in municipal water services has made access to clean water from the tap a thing of the past for many people living there.

Fishman also points out some positive changes that have been made by forward looking cities and companies to reduce their water consumption and recapture and reuse water whenever possible. This is not necessarily a victory for green friendly water use, but a function of reducing the cost to operate. If water contamination continues at current rates the cost to purify water and return it to a drinkable state will continue to rise. The more expensive water becomes the more we will think about how we are using it instead of taking it for granted. It has been said that water is the new oil, which is a scary thought. We need to take the right steps now to protect out water supply. We need to stop dumping waste into water supplies and contaminating groundwater and invest in the infrastructure of public water. All it takes is a little respect for our water.

Goldilocks and the three bears revisited

Three bears stamp

We all know the story of Goldilocks and how she visited the home of the three bears while they were out. You probably heard how she tasted the porridge and tried the chairs, but did you know that she was also really thirsty?

First Goldilocks took a glass and filled it from the tap and it was good, but it was not quite cold enough. So she opened the fridge and saw a bottle of Aquafina. She knew the Aquafina bottle was nice and cold, but Goldilocks had read online about how chemicals can leach from PET plastic into the water. She also knew that over 20 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away in trash cans and landfills every year. So she took her glass and filled it from the the refrigerator’s water dispenser instead. When she tasted it she was pleasantly surprised because it was cold, tasted great, and safe to drink. You see, the filter inside the refrigerator was independently tested by the NSF so Goldilocks knew that the water she was drinking was safe.

Okay, maybe that is not how the story really goes, but the story of Goldilocks and the three bears is just a myth. A lot like these myths about drinking water from the NSF consumer information website. NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International was founded in 1944 to provide public health and safety-related information to concerned consumers around the world.

NSF International performs independent testing of water filters to verify their contaminant reduction claims.

Here are the common myths about public drinking water from the NSF page, see if you know the truth about your water quality before you click the link to get the answers.

  • We have less water today than we did 100 years ago
  • Once you use water, it is gone
  • If there is lead in your water, it’s the fault of the water treatment plant
  • Using a home water treatment device will make tap water safer or healthier to drink
  • Bottled water is always safer than tap water
  • Water will purify itself, so we don’t need to worry about it

You may be surprised by some of the answers you find. If you know all the answers without checking the NSF page then you should pat yourself on the back and tell all your friends how smart you are!

Small changes make a big difference

Earth day

Happy Earth Day 2011! Every day should be Earth Day when you think about how important this planet is to our survival (I know, duh!), but it is really easy to take things for granted. Our beloved Planet Earth provides us with the resources we need to live, thrive and pursue happiness, but we do not always do our best to reciprocate it.

I was not sure what to write about for Earth Day, though there are certainly plenty of ways to help out, until last night. I got an extra boost this morning when I checked Twitter and saw the following tweet from @OpheliaRising “Special #EarthDay #FF @fridgefilters @PlasticfreeBeth. Small changes make a big difference!”. That was when it really hit me, small changes do make a really big difference.

I was speaking with a friend last night who is taking a class in environmental sociology and has to write a 15 page paper about a current environmental issue. I was eager to help and suggested she discuss plastic pollution and bottled water. I was ready to unload all the information I have gathered on the subject, but was stopped short by her response. She told me that it was not finding a topic that was hard, but that she did not really care. “I am not an environmentalist” she told me, “the problem is too big and I am not going to make a difference”.

I wish I could tell you that I pulled out my best arguments and convinced her that she should care and explained how she could make a difference, but I only had time to reference a book I read as a small child entitled “If Everybody Did” by Jo Ann Stover. It’s a book I read a long time ago when I was a kid and the lesson the book attempts to teach is that while one person doing something does not have a great effect, if everybody did the same thing it causes a much larger reaction.

No one expects you to change the world singlehandedly. Many of the problems we face today are truly collective action problems, but what if everybody made the decision to do just one thing to help the planet. What if we all took one simple step towards preserving the Earth? It can be a big thing, or it can be a little thing. That is exactly what earthday.org is doing with their billion acts of green campaign. If you go to http://act.earthday.org/ you can see there are 102,013,078 (and counting) pledges from people just like you and me to help make a difference. That’s over one hundred million people! Imagine if everybody did? We can all make a difference, with small changes, because small changes make a big difference.