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.
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!
I already knew that fish were eating plastic from watching the documentary film Tapped, but I was not really prepared to see this article from Mother Nature Network, or @MotherNatureNetwork on twitter. A green sea turtle, rescued in 2009, was found to have eaten a large amount of plastic. The team of marine biologists was able to extract the largest piece, but the poor turtle still excreted plastic for a month. Marine biologists believe that sea turtles are eating the plastic waste that finds its way into the ocean because it looks like a jellyfish. Since sea turtles love to eat the jellyfish they chomp down on the plastic bag look-a-likes as well.
Reducing the amount of plastic that we use and dispose of every day can make a difference. Everyone has a part to play in helping keep plastic out of the ocean.
It does not have to be a huge life altering decision, because every little bit helps. Try taking a re-usable cloth bag to the store to get groceries instead of using plastic bags. Take a re-usable water bottle with you to work instead of a single use PET plastic bottle. Remember that re-using is better than recycling and if you can’t avoid disposable goods make sure to recycle whenever you can. Cheap plastic water bottles and plastic grocery bags are convenient, but they cause damage to the environment. Challenge yourself to try just one way to reduce plastic waste. I chose to stop buying bottled water and instead keep a bottle of filtered water in the fridge. I haven’t bought bottled water at all in several months. It’s a small change, but it starts with you and me making the right decisions. Together we can make a big difference.
It’s real water. Or at least that is what the makers of Real Water want you to believe. According to the Real Water website the water that we drink is damaged, or too acidic and does not hydrate the body properly. The science behind their claims is fairly impressive…in volume. It is true that tap water is slightly acidic, which means it has a pH level lower than 7, but is it really bad for your health? Real Water thinks it is and charges $36 for a case of 24 bottles.
You may think that’s not too much to pay if you are going to get better water. After all if you check out their website Real Water claims to be adding free electrons to the damaged water to increase the pH level. The result is a water with greater alkalinity, or pH level higher than 7, so it actually hydrates you far better than damaged water. To be honest their science looks good to an untrained eye, but an alert tweet from @OpheliaRising led me to a great piece in the Guardian written by Rebecca Hill. In the article she explores the claims made by Real Water and spoke with both a chemist and a nutritionist to get their take on positively charged water and the effects of low pH on “damaged water”.
So the first claim that our drinking water is “damaged” and bad for our health is untrue. The chemist, Professor Stephen Fletcher, point out that “The lowest possible pH of carbonated water is around 5″. That means that carbonated water, which is obviously bubbly and not at all like tap water, still only has a pH of 5. Vinegar is a thousand times more acidic than carbonated water and is not dangerous to human health so it is perfectly safe to drink water with a pH level that is slightly less than 7.
So what about the claim that water treatment systems cause water to lose electrons to the point where it no longer hydrates us and the loose free radicals harm our cells? Again bogus. Fletcher argues that, “Water molecules do not act as free radicals” and “The acid component of water (called a hydrogen ion) emphatically does not have an unpaired electron. In fact, it has no electrons at all.”
Finally the company claims that their proprietary process adds millions of free radicals back into water to pair with the loose electrons (free radicals) to bind them back together and increase the alkalinity of water. As Fletcher points out the principle of electro-neutrality prevents water from becoming positively charged in the first place. So if the water was never positively charged, how could Real Water add back missing electrons in the form of free radicals? As Professor Fletcher points out “It follows that the E2 technology cannot add ‘hundreds of millions of free electrons’ to anything, no matter how it works.”
So it seems that Real Water is not real water after all. Like other fellow water bottling companies they are trying to convince you that the water you can buy from them is better than the water that comes from your own tap. You can pay $1.50 a bottle for Real Water, or you can pay a few pennies for a nice glass of water from your own home. As nutritionist Sue Baic points out in the article “Normal tap water is perfectly healthy.” Public water systems routinely test your water and have to adhere to higher health and safety standards than bottled water companies. Don’t buy the hype and especially don’t buy Real Water.
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.
Why do you drink bottled water? Yes, I am talking to you, and don’t worry there is not a right or wrong answer here. Maybe you don’t drink bottled water at all, maybe just once or twice a week…or maybe your fridge is stocked full with it. How much water you drink and where you get it from is not really the point I want to make. The simple question is, why do you drink bottled water?
I read a short piece from Dr. John Grohol today on The Psychology of Bottle Water that I think brings up a very good point. Soda companies started selling bottled water to be able to sell to consumers who were not interested in soft drinks and carbonated beverages. These companies claim that bottled water fills a need in society by providing a healthier choice to their customers. Dr. Grohol disagrees, “We’re buying bottled water because it’s there and Americans are drawn to convenience” not because we are now choosing to be healthier and drink water instead of soda.
Further Grohol claims that twenty years ago it was unheard of to pay for water in a bottle. Savvy corporations have managed to change our perception of water from something free to a product we spend our hard earned money on. This is particularly problematic because “we’ve moved from accepting water from a water fountain to accepting the exact same or very similar water from a rarely-recycled plastic bottle”. With so few of the plastic bottles finding their way into the recycling the convenience we are paying for with bottled water is polluting the earth.
We have developed a very bad habit, but that doesn’t make us bad people. Bottled water is definitely convenient, but if you find yourself buying bottled water when there is a tap nearby at work or in your home, stop and think. You can save a lot of money just by drinking tap water instead of bottled water and there really is not a big taste difference between the two choices. If you know you are not going to have access to a water fountain or tap, plan ahead and bring your own bottle of water filled at home. There are a lot of great options for re-usable bottles in all shapes and sizes. Start a new habit of saving money and reducing the amount of plastic waste you produce each day by packing your own water to drink or refilling from a public water supply (which is also free). Drinking water every day is really good for you, but giving up bottled water doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking water.
The first thing I do when I get to work is fill a glass of water from the fridge in the break room. If your workplace has easy access to free public water take a moment to think about why you would ever need a bottled water? Sure, it is convenient, but is the cost of convenience really worth it?
This is a subject that I came across a while back and have spent some time exploring, but this week Beth Terry of myplasticfreelife put up a post that covered the topic perfectly. I highly recommend reading her post about the other estrogenic chemicals that can leach out of plastic and into your food and water. You should also follow her on twitter @plasticfreebeth
The whole post is a great read (so check it out!), but here are a few crucial facts about why we need to move away from disposable plastics and find a more sustainable solution. This is what Beth has been doing since 2007 and her blog is full of advice and information on how to reduce your plastic footprint.
Many brands are now advertising that their products are BPA-free. From baby products to bottled water, companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and now advertise that they are BPA-free. As Beth points out “entire shelves of baby products are labelled BPA-free. Are they safe?” Companies want us to believe that BPA-free means that the chemicals used in their plastics are safe, but just because a product is not made with Bisphenol-A does not mean it is safe.
Beth took a 33 page study from the University of Texas and presented it on her blog in a way that is very easy to understand. A big thanks to her for the great work she put in. The UT study “confirms that hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.” What does that mean? All those baby products and water bottles can still leach chemicals with Estrogen Activity into beverages and foods that are stored in them. This is bad because chemicals with Estrogen Activity “mimics the hormone estrogen in the body” and can cause a variety of health problems.
Have you ever left a bottled water in your car while you went to shop or see a movie? When you came back did the water taste different? If it was a sunny day the odds are that are that some chemicals leached from the plastic PET bottle into your water. Why is that? In the UT study researchers also tested plastics under duress and found that “plastics are more likely to leach chemicals when exposed to various stressors like heat or light, the researchers also tested the products after subjecting them to UV radiation (mimicking the effect of sunlight)”. So let’s review. Disposable plastics are destroying the environment, cost more money, and also leach chemicals into food and water that disrupt hormone levels, check. Sounds like a great product line.
As I have written about recently, some companies are now touting a new bio-based plant plastic that is not made with petroleum. These new plastics are still not biodegradable and further “71% of all the PLA samples tested were found to leach EA chemicals as well”. Do not buy the hype about plant based plastic, it may be better than petroleum based plastic, but it is not safer for you as the consumer.
Make the decision to use less plastic every day. Why buy plastic water bottles when the water in your home is cheap and also most likely safer to drink? An obvious first step to reduce how much plastic you buy is to put down the bottle and take control of your water.
For the rest of Beth’s research on estrogenic chemicals in plastic you can check out her blog at www.myplasticfreelife.com
The biggest players in the bottled beverage industry have announced a change to a more green friendly bottle. The new bottles from Pepsi are made from 100% plant based renewable sources (for a great breakdown of the new Pepsi bottle check out myplasticfreelife.com), while Coke has announced their new bottles will be 30% plant based. This is definitely a move in the right direction by both companies. At least this shows that we are seeing a shift in the mindset of major players like Pepsi, Coke and Nestle, but it still is not a substantial change to the problem posed by single use plastic bottles…and here is why.
- These new bottles are not biodegradable, despite the fact that the name makes them sound that way
- These new bottles are still made from PET plastic, which can leach endocrine disrupting chemicals
- The majority of plastic bottles are not recycled
- Pepsi’s bottles only use 10% rPET (recycled PET) from recycled bottles
I still avoid plastic bottles and prefer re-usable coffee thermoses and water canteens. Filling your own bottles at home will always be cheaper than buying bottled water and helps cut down on waste. Don’t be fooled by the new plant based PET bottles, they are still not biodegradable. If you do buy them like all plastic they should be recycled.
How much time do you spend each day thinking about where water comes from and where it goes? Probably not very much and I have to admit I often take it for granted too. Since I watched the Tapped documentary though I have had a bug in my brain about the drought of 2007. I grew up in Dekalb county, but had moved to Raleigh by 2007. A few years ago local communities were running dangerously low on water and still people were dragging their feet when it came to conservation. Back in Atlanta folks were hit pretty hard by the drought as well.
Nestle’s new Pure Life brand is being bottled from municipal sources meaning yet another high volume seller has joined Dasani and Aquafina re-bottling public water. Approximately 40% of bottled water is taken from municipal sources and with Nestle moving their Pure Life brand in that direction this percentage is likely to go up. This bothers me for a couple of reasons, public water systems are supported with our taxpayer dollars. This means that we are subsidizing the commercialization of our own water and then being charged hundreds of times more for that same water. So when you buy a bottle of Dasani, Aquafina, or Pure Life water you are essentially buying water that you already pay taxes on to get from your tap.
Which brings me to Atlanta back in 2007 when the shores of Lake Allatoona and the Chattahoochee River were dwindling from the drought. Meanwhile, as Thomas Wheatley pointed out, Coke was taking public water to bottle for their Dasani brand.
The Coca Cola company was doing what made the most sense and running business as usual to meet public demand. The irony is that had the city of Atlanta run out of water people would have been drinking the same water that used to flow from their taps, but they would have been paying as much as 2000 times more for it. Don’t you think it is time we stopped fueling the bottled water industry? Take control of your water and give up the bottle. You can filter your own tap water with a home filter and fill re-usable containers instead of buying bottled water. I have a built in filter in the fridge so I get most of my drinking water from there. How do you filter your water? I look forward to seeing your comments so we can share some ideas about how we can all make smarter decisions about our drinking water.
As a part of this year’s ASUC voting at UC Berkeley students are asked to lend their support for Bill 94 to help UC Berkeley reach its waste reduction goals. The vote, which lasts from April 5th-7th, will determine the fate of bottled water sales on campus. Thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing the Daily Clog post about the vote.
I wanted to find out more about the ASUC voting so I looked up the 2011 UC Berkeley voters guide to see what Bill 94 was all about and have included it below in it’s entirety.
Bill 94 The End the Sale of Bottled Water Initiative
“UC Berkeley currently has a goal to reach 75% waste diversion by 2012 and zero-waste by 2020. Barring emergency situations, do you support the respectful request for
(1) the renogotiation of any existing campus contracts to phase out the purchase, sale, and distribution of bottled water
(2) for increased campus access to public water including hydration stations and better maintenance of drinking fountains, in order to aid the realization of the aforementioned waste-reduction goals?”
Given what we know about plastic pollution and the negative effect that bottled water has on the environment, especially in the ocean, it is great to see more students get involved with our future. Bottled water is not sustainable, especially when you consider that only 10% of singe-use water bottles will be recycled. The second point in Bill 94 promotes better maintenance and more availability of hydration stations on campus so students don’t have to buy bottled water and can carry re-usable canteens instead. This is the perfect solution. Nobody likes to pay the high premium on bottled water so give them a viable alternative.
Your home has a hydration station already, your refrigerator. Your fridge is probably where you go when you are thirsty so be sure to keep it stocked with plenty of water, just not the bottled kind please. Use a water pitcher or dispenser to fill a re-usable bottle or glass and drink responsibly. If you have a newer refrigerator it may already have a water filter built-in. You can put Bill 94 to use in your home and help reduce your waste too.
Image Source: Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons