by: Shelly Phillips
Water. We all need it, especially during these hot summer months. Fortunately, unlike many people around the world, Americans have relatively easy access to this precious commodity. Consider: We can take a sip from a drinking fountain, fill up a glass of water from the sink, buy bottled water from grocery stores, or get endless refills of H2O at most restaurants. The problem with this easy accessibility is that the variety of available choices aren’t always the best for the environment—or ourselves.
Take bottled water, for instance. While it is easy to assume that it is better than tap water, what with being known as both cleaner and safer than what comes out of our sinks and supposedly hailing from crystal-clear mountain streams in the Rocky Mountains, in reality, it’s not. To begin with, bottled water companies only have their water tested once per week while public water is mandated by the government to be tested over a hundred times per month. Also, bottled water isn’t always actually from mountain streams after all: An estimated 40% of bottled water, for instance, comes from that tap water people try to avoid.
In addition to these facts, drinking bottled water also has a drastically negative impact on the environment. Transporting plastic bottles from the plants to our local convenience stores and supermarkets uses the same amount of oil as one million vehicles over one year. This, in turn, increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the air and depletes a natural resource.
Another major issue that affects the environment is what happens to these bottles once they are used. Consider the fact that 86% of all of the plastic water bottles Americans use are not recycled and are instead tossed in the garbage. Because plastic is not a very biodegradable substance and is one of the most long-lasting substances around, it easily infiltrates our food and water systems. An estimated 100,000 animals die per year in the northern Pacific Ocean because of plastic.
Upon entering the environment, plastic not only affects plants and animals but humans as well. When exposed to heat or other factors, plastic lets loose many chemicals which harm us in a myriad of ways. One chemical called Bisphenol-A has been proven to increase the risk of cancer, lead to hormonal balance, and affect a woman’s fertility.
Another reason that it’s wise to forgo plastic bottles is because of how expensive they really are. At a local convenience store, for example, you can buy a pack of six bottles of water for $4.99. If you drink one pack per week for one month, you end spending $20.00 on something that you didn’t really need to begin with and could have used elsewhere in your expenses.
So, what are some other options instead of drinking bottled water?
- First and foremost, drink tap water. Not only is it more regulated than bottled water, but it’s free. Also, if you’re concerned about the toxins that may be contained in it, have no fear. You can request a water report every year from your local water company that will tell you exactly what you’re drinking. Another option is to buy a water filter. The cheapest one you can usually find is about $20.00—i.e., the same price as four $4.99 packs of bottled water. But the nice thing is, you can continue reusing your water filter and only have to spend that $20.00 one time as opposed to every month.
- Resurrecting Mason jars. If you go to the supermarket and buy one jar of jelly for anywhere between $1.79-$3.69, keep the jar when you’re done and use it as a drinking glass when you go to work, school, or hang out with friends. In the end, you spend less than you would have on that pack of bottled water, and you can use it for as long as you want!
- Since glass isn’t always the best option, another thing you can do is buy your own reusable water bottle—especially one that isn’t made of plastic. One type of bottle you can purchase that is 100% recyclable, does not contain the same chemicals as plastic bottles, and can be used for both cold and hot liquids is a stainless steel bottle.
As humans, everything we do affects everything around us. So next time you go to drink water, think tap, not plastic—and not only save the environment but please your pocketbook as well!
Beavan, Colin. No Impact Man. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009. Print.
Bill, Joseph. “How Safe is Your Water Bottle?” Safewaterbottlereview.com. Safe Water Bottle Review, 27 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 July 2010.
“The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water.” Foodandwaterwatch.org. Food & Water Watch, July 2010. Web. 21 July 2010.
Note: This piece was originally published in the OPEN Program Monthly Newsletter, July 2010.
Shelly Phillips is an Ohioan who doesn’t really care about the Buckeyes, but is just a little too obsessed with all things British. She also enjoys traveling, reading, Chai tea lattes, and late-afternoon naps.