The UnGreen, UnSexy : Bottled Water

Bottled water. Convenient. A love affair of sorts. But costly to our wallet, health and environment. What you should know…

  • Estrogen-like chemicals lurk in some bottled water, according to a recent study by the Aquatic Ecotoxicology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. This endocrine-disrupter could have the same harmful effects as bisphenol A (bpa).
  • Chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time.
  • Bottled water does not necessarily mean safer-to-drink water. Check out the National Resources Defense Council's Executive Summary on the subject.
  • 2.5 million disposable water bottles are thrown out EVERY HOUR… enough to circle the equator every 2.9 days!
  • 1500 bottles of water end up in landfill EVERY SECOND!
  • It takes 3-5 liters of water to make just one 1-liter bottle, according to the American Recycling Institute. What a waste, especially when you consider the number of people in the world without access to cleandrinking water! And, 33 billion plastic bottles were purchased in 2007 alone and is forecasted to rise to over 170 billion by 2011. Yipes!
  • It takes 17 milllion barrels of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport bottled water (based on 2006 statistics). That's enough to fuel ONE MILLION cars and light trucks for a year!
  • Disposable water bottles take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
  • 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not (according to the Natural Resources Defense Council). I've seen some data suggesting as much as 40% of bottled water is tap water!
  • Bottled water gets tested for contaminants only once a week. Tap water is tested for contaminants hundreds of times a month.
  • Twenty percent of all bottled water has more chlorine than California's state regulations will allow in tap water. Chlorine, also known as trihalomethanes, has been linked to cancer.
  • The manufacture of every ton of PET produces around 3 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Bottling water thus created more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006. (According to the Pacific Institute).
  • Even when recycled, its hard to turn PET into new bottles.
  • Water is becoming big business, opening up the question–is water a right or commodity? What would you do if a big bottled water company decided to tap into your nearby stream, wetland or lake? It's happening and communities are fighting for their water. 

So, you may ask, "what if my water tastes or smells funny" or "how do I know if my own water is safe?" And I will pose the question: Do you remember when bottled water first became popular? When soda started getting a bad rap for being unhealthy. Bottled water became the healthier alternative; and with healthy sounding names like spring water, Aquafina, Evian and Dasani, we became a bit worried about the quality of drinking water that didn't come in a bottle. Next thing we knew, our refrigerators were stocked with bottled water and we couldn't go anywhere without it. We became very very thirsty.

Can we and/or are we willing to collectively switch back to our old ways–kids drinking from water fountains, drinking water from a glass? With all of the environmental issues out there (i.e., news about pharmaceuticals in our water), one does have to take pause before pledging to go cold turkey on bottled water and making the switch to reusable water bottles. But how do I know my water is safe? And what's a safe reusable water bottle??

My family has been living with well water for 11 years now, filtered only by the refrigerator filter and treated with a softener. Last year our refrigerator filter died and we've been drinking 100% unfiltered-straight-form-the-tap water ever since. No, I'm not crazy (and I still feel great). I just decided to start from scratch.

Test the water.
Like everything else, it's always good to test the water first. How do you know you have a good or bad thing if you haven't dipped your toe in? We've had our watertested by the county almost every year for the last nine with nothing amiss. This year we invested in a more thorough water test kit and everything turned out just fine–and we have well water. No filters necessary.

Watch these movies!

  • Tapped. From the plastic production to the ocean in which so many of these bottles end up, the inspiring documentary Tapped trails the path of the bottled water industry and the communities which were the unwitting chips on the table. A powerful portrait of the lives affected by the bottled water industry, this revelatory film features those caught at the intersection of big business and the public’s right to water.
  • Blue Gold : Water Wars This documentary follows numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to violent revolutions to U.N. conventions to revised constitutions to local protests at grade schools. As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war”. A line is crossed as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?

About Lynn."I'm known in my 'hood formany things. Mostly my environmentalism. One good friend calls me the femaleversion of Bill Nye the Science Guy ,others refer to me as the cool chic (at least I think they said "cool"). There's a pretty sizablefaction of eye rollers out there, too. My son makes up songs like "There'san Environmental Gal and Her Name is Lynn" and has affectionately calledme an "environmental psycho". But mostly, I'm known for my stanceagainst the ever wasteful bottled water."

Founder of the eco-friendly product site, Lynn is also a contributing editor to Just Cause Magazine. Find her on twitter and facebook.


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