Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The High Cost of Bottled Water

Think about all of the bottled water that you see for sale in the stores. Now think about the fact that all of those bottles are manufactured, shipped (using a great deal of fossil fuel), and usually tossed in the trash. About 10% are recycled, but recycling requires a great deal of energy – which usually comes from fossil fuels. Bottles thrown into the trash are either burned (releasing toxic chemicals) or buried (taking up to 1,000 years to degrade.)

So why do we drink so much bottled water? For one thing, it’s pretty darn convenient. People feel that it tastes better and is more pure than tap water, though this is often not the case. Bottled water has fewer regulations and safeguards than tap water. Many brands, including a few big-name best sellers, get their water from municipal sources – that’s right, it’s tap water. And blind taste-tests have shown that people often prefer tap water to the bottled stuff.

So what are our greener options? Treat yourself to a nice, reusable water bottle. (Bottled water bottles are hard to clean and the plastic degrades with repeated use, so reusing them is not recommended.) Plastic sports bottles made of polycarbonate (marked with a #7) are the cheapest option, though polycarbonate has been shown to leach a compound called bisphenol-A (when exposed to hot water and heavy detergents - so avoid washing them in those.) Nalgene is the most well-known brand of polycarbonate bottles. A better choice may be a bottle made of aluminum (the inside is coated to prevent the water from contacting the metal) or stainless steel. Sigg (http://www.mysigg.com/) and Klean Kanteen (http://www.kleankanteen.com/) are reputable brands of metal water bottles. Some larger natural food stores carry metal water bottles.

But what about the taste of tap water? Here in Columbus the tap water reeks of chlorine. A water filter will help remove the taste, as will letting the water to sit for a few hours (this will allow the chlorine to dissipate.) Affordable water filters do create landfill waste, but my carafe water filter can process 40 gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced - and that is the equivalent of more than 300 half-liter bottles of water.

1 comment:

Sydney said...

When I lived in the city I only bought bottled water when I was traveling. Now that I am on well water a clean-tasting source of water for drinking (and some cooking) is much more important to me. I bought two 3-gallon and one 1-gallon #7 polycarbonate water jugs from Wild Oats. I refill them at grocery store water refill stations. Between uses I rinse them with vinegar to keep them fresh. They work really well for me, I have good tasting water, and I’m not buying plastic containers all the time.