Bottled Water Conquers the Earth!

“Young people are just as attracted to the truth as they are convenience and expediency.”

  Pope Francis.

Plastic water bottle pollutionBehold bottled water! It’s hard to believe that not too many years ago, people went about their daily business without a plastic, water-filled bottle in their hand. That’s not to say bottled water hasn’t been with us for a while. Hiram Ricker started selling Poland Spring water back in 1859.  It’s been a growth industry ever since, although it wasn’t until the 1980s and the widespread use of plastic that things really took off. Today, Americans gulp around 1,500 bottles of water per second. And the market’s expanding.

Wisdom of the Ancients

The wisdom of the ancients tells us, “a fool and his money are soon parted,” and that might be the case with bottled water. There’s no significant difference between what you get in bottled water and what you get from your kitchen tap. In fact, almost 50% of bottled water is municipally sourced. If you drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, tap water will cost you 50 cents a year. Filtered tap water in a plastic bottle will run about $1,400. But that’s only your out-of-pocket expense. Bottled water costs all of us a whole lot more.

On the Road to Fiji and Back

Consider the popular Fiji Water. Sure enough, the water comes from Fiji, but plastic for the bottles comes from Pennsylvania, caps come from Taiwan and the labels come from New Zealand. Once the bottles are assembled and filled, Fiji Water is shipped to Texas for distribution. That’s about 21,000 miles of transport for a single bottle of water. Researchers estimate that 160,000,000 barrels of oil are annually required to satisfy global demand. This results in about 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere every year. It doesn’t end there. Used water bottles are a large contributor to the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans. The already Texas-sized mass of floating plastic in the Pacific grows larger every year. Research by the Zoological Society of London suggests that by 2025 there will be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in our oceans.

If the “truth” is that bottled water is devastating our environment, why do we drink it? As Pope Francis put it, we—and not just young people—are attracted to expediency and convenience. Consuming bottled water is undeniably quick and easy. Anything else requires additional time and effort. But the Pope reminds us we are attracted to the truth as well. The next time you take a swig from a plastic water bottle, consider the true cost of your convenience.

Just Do It

We live in a world of overwhelming problems. Everywhere we turn the issues seem bigger than we are. It’s easy to surrender when you don’t think there’s anything you can do to make a difference. But on this issue, you can. Start by stopping. Forgo convenience and fill a reusable bottle with tap water instead of defaulting to plastic. Filter your water at home if you prefer the taste. And take the time to recycle. A disposable plastic bottle is 100% recyclable—the alternative is to give it 450 years to degrade in a landfill or in the ocean. The attractive “truth” is, you can make a difference.  —Ebert

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