Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can you or the environment afford bottled water?

I’ve been thinking about bottled water. As an old and frugal New England Yankee I can’t comprehend the concept of buying bottled water.

Although I’ve heard of places where tap water had either a foul smell or taste, I’ve never lived in a place where tap water wasn’t satisfactory to drink. This causes me to wonder why so many people won’t drink tap water. (Well users may be exempt)

From a cost only point of view, 2 pints a day of bottled water ( half the recommended daily water consumption) at $.25 a bottle, is $182 a year. That’s $730 per year for a family of 4. The equivalent amount of city water, where I live, (365 gallons) cost less than $1.50.

Based on measured purity, it appears that many bottled waters aren’t any purer than local tap water. Forgetting scientific purity, many bottled water companies simply take water from the taps where they’re located, filter it some more then put it in bottles for sale. As those bottles sit on the shelf they gradually develop bacterial growth. So much for purity.

But, most of all, I’ve been thinking about the environmental impact of drinking bottled water. Think about the process of moving water from one point to another.

First, a bottle has to be created from basic petroleum. Then it’s filled ( a pint bottle contains one pound of water), loaded on a semi-trailer, transported at least several hundred if not thousands of miles, and finally sold to a consumer.

Once used, if the bottle is recycled, it takes energy to collect, sort, transport and remelt the plastic into raw material to produce another bottle.

For the roughly half of the bottles not recycled, there’s the landfill taken up by all the nonrecycled bottles. People talk about sustainable processes, well non degradable bottles will sure make a landfill sustainable.

In the two paragraphs above, imagine the energy it takes to perform all these operations.

If you want to calculate energy use like a dedicated environmentalist, consider the energy it took to construct and operate the bottling plant (don’t forget the energy associated with the employees in the plant), the energy to build the trucks and trailers, a portion of the cost of roads needed to be built and maintained to permit distribution, the extra size of the store needed to display the bottled water; the energy to find, obtain, process, distribute the fuel (oil) used in the trucks, etc.

Here’s a question. What’s the carbon footprint (considering the above) of the bottled water industry? What’s the contribution to your carbon footprint if you use bottled water?

I can’t understand how environmentalists can co-exist with this situation while anguishing over the minor impacts of a few homes or some additional parking for a new business.

It appears to me that environmentalism is segregated and compartmentalized so people can select and choose which particular portions or facets of the environment they will promote and which they will ignore.

Am I an environmentalist because I compost kitchen and garden waste? Or, am I NOT an environmentalist because I drive a mini-van? Am I an environmentalist because I grow my own fruit or am I NOT because I use chemical sprays on them? Am I an environmentalist if I do drink bottled water or if I don’t? It gets confusing.

I consider myself a practical environmentalist in that I practice and support moderate but not extreme positions. How many environmentalists support the full environmental program and how many preach only for those portions they can support without personal inconvience?

Bottled water anyone?

1 comment:

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