So we all know plastic bottles are bad, right?
I mean we all love what’s inside them. There’s a huge variety of drinks available in plastic bottles: you can get soda, juice, ice-tea, ice-coffee, coconut water (my favorite!) or, for the most health conscious consumers, water.
Since it’s kind of the most obvious target, let’s focus on water bottles for now. Bottled water is completely absurd if you live in a developed country like the U.S. because most of us (excluding areas with bad or contaminated water supplies) have access to clean, cheap tap water.
The people who don’t have access to clean water have to do whatever they can to get water, understandably. But relying on bottled water might hold us back from implementing more long-term sustainable solutions.
In fact, it’s causing us to neglect some of these solutions. Water fountains used to be readily available across the United States, but many public water fountains have now fallen into neglect. There is no demand to replace them because bottled water is now readily available at huge markup. But hey, it’s only a dollar or two, right?
There is evidence that the plastics used in most bottles contain harmful chemicals that leach into the water.[i] This is why it is inadvisable to reuse disposable bottles; the more they are used the more likely they are to leach because the plastic degrades over time, however these chemicals may still be affecting you even if you only drink from the bottle once. And if you are a mother who breastfeeds it is likely that any chemicals you ingest will end up in your breast milk and ultimately in your child.
As if the potential harm to our bodies isn’t enough, what happens to the bottle after the drink is gone? Most get thrown away. The few that get recycled usually become one-use items that are then landfilled.
A lot of our plastic waste, including plastic bottles, ends up in the ocean. Fish eat the plastic; they mistake it for food and it is often coated in bio-film from whatever it once held. The fish on your plate is no exception, if it came from the ocean it probably ate plastic.
Ban The Bottle lists some disturbing facts about bottled water, like that last year we could have fueled 1.3 million cars with the oil used to produce plastic bottles. That doesn’t even include shipping. We could also have powered 190,000 homes with the energy wasted using bottled water.[ii]
On top of all that, bottled water companies operate in a predatory manner. They pump water from whatever clean source they can find until the source is dry. Then they move on. That is not a sustainable practice, and it ends up impacting the local environment and the people who live there.[iii]
Bottled water is hurting our planet and it is hurting us. There is no reason to allow this practice to continue.
San Francisco just decided to ban the sale of plastic bottles. The ban will be phased in over the next four years, and although it isn’t as strict as some would like, it is still a great victory. San Francisco is making huge strides towards sustainability and aims to send none of its waste to the landfill by 2020.[iv] Frankly, I wish my home city, New York, would hop on that train.
The best thing about plastic bottles is that they are almost completely possible to avoid all on your own. We don’t need a ban to choose not to buy bottled water.
There are so many different refillable bottle options out there. I personally would avoid the plastic based ones because they can still end up leaching over time. And ultimately, even if you recycle them, they’re just more plastic waste. I prefer glass or stainless steel because they’re both safe from leaching and extremely recyclable. You don’t even need to buy a new bottle, I really like mason jars for hot and cold beverages on the go. And there are plenty of accessories (like sip-tops!) you can make or buy for them!
Choosing not to buy bottled water is a great first step towards living more sustainably. It is probably one of the easiest changes you can make to your daily life and it can have a huge impact! Don’t feel too bad if you slip up at first, no one is perfect and changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight!
[i] There is a lot of info on the internet about plastic leaching chemicals, but here is an article to get you started:
[iii] Learn more about the bottled water industry in the documentary “Bottled Life” http://www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/home-en.html
It is currently on Netflix instant streaming too.