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Today I’m going to go where you probably thought I was headed with Hit the Bar, Not the Bottle. How can we reduce the economic and ecological impact of our beverage choices?
Pop Quiz: Which store-bought beverage costs 300 times more than its “homemade” version? Read on to find out…
The Cheapest Drink Ever
In the US, we take our fresh, clean, drinking water for granted. Turn on the tap, and out it comes – free, or nearly so. Most public places have drinking fountains available. An increasing number also have touch-free spouts to fill reusable bottles.
Yet many people walk right past that free, clean drinking water and pay for water in a disposable plastic bottle instead. Why is that? It’s due to a combination of myths, habits, and lack of awareness.
This blog post barely scratches the surface of our country’s bottled water woes. For a more in-depth look, I’d highly recommend the book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water by Peter H.
The Health Myth
Myth: Bottled water is cleaner and healthier.
Reality: The United States has one of the cleanest tap water sources on the planet. In fact, about 45% of all bottled water brands contain only treated, municipal tap water. Bottled water is also subject to fewer regulations than tap. So there’s even less of a safety guarantee.
If your water comes from a municipal source, then once a year you should receive a water quality report with your bill. If your water comes from a private well, you need to get your water tested every year. The EPA provides a fact sheet on how and when to test your water, and for what. They recommend laboratory testing, though DIY testing kits are less expensive and give faster results.
The Taste Myth
Myth: I don’t like the taste of tap water.
Reality: It’s true that tap water can be safe to drink and still have an “off” odor or taste. This is easily remedied by one of the following options:
- An in-fridge water filter, if your fridge comes with a water dispenser
- A refillable pitcher or dispenser with filter
- A faucet water filter
- An under-the-sink reverse osmosis system
- A whole-house reverse osmosis system
The Party Myths
Myth, Variation 1: I’m having a party, and serving tap water looks cheap. (Actual viewpoint of an actual party host I know.)
Myth, Variation 2: I’m having a party, and serving bottled water is easier.
Reality: Your party will be as big of a hit if you provide a nice water dispenser and a stack of cups nearby. And guess what? Guests prefer being able to pour the amount they want, including partial refills. Who likes being constrained to either 8 or 16.9 oz? Plus, you can use those cost savings to either splurge on something else or put toward your next shindig.
The Travel Myths
Myth: I’m traveling to another state and don’t trust the water there.
Reality: As long as you’re in the US, chances are the tap water at your destination is as good as or better than what flows back home.
Myth: I’m going to the airport and can’t take a water bottle through security.
Reality: You can take an empty water bottle through security with no problem. All airports have water fountains, many with a built-in water bottle filling station. As a bonus, bringing your own reusable bottle will save you money at your destination.
The Convenience Myth
Myth: Bringing a water bottle with me is too inconvenient.
Reality: Taking the time to pay for a disposable bottle isn’t convenient, either. And once you have it, you still need to carry it around until you’re done with it. Granted, you could pick up a pack of carabiners and go hands-free. But why not bring a reusable bottle with a carabiner already attached? Be sure to use a dishwasher-safe model for added convenience!
The Absentminded Myth
Myth: I “forgot” my water bottle and “need” bottled water to stay hydrated.
Reality: Lack of planning is not “forgetting”. It’s a bad habit. How many times have you forgotten your reusable water bottle, but remembered your keys, wallet, and phone? Think of your water bottle as another necessity, especially on a hot day or a trip to the gym. And like your other necessities, start thinking of it as something that cannot easily be replaced. If you forget it, push through the discomfort of going without it. Don’t bail yourself out. A little extra thirst one day will help you remember to bring it the next. Before you know it, grabbing your water bottle on the way out the door (or tossing it in your gym bag with all your other stuff) will become ingrained.
The “Just This Once” Myth
Myth: C’mon, one little bottle isn’t that big of a deal!
Reality: In case it’s not blindingly obvious by now, the answer to our Pop Quiz is: water. According to Business Insider, consumers spend 300 to 2,000 times the cost of tap water to drink bottled. On the high end, that’s twice as expensive as gasoline!
Each individual bottle seems inexpensive enough – only a buck or so. Assuming you buy in bulk you’ll spend around half that, $.50 per bottle. Do that each day and you’ll spend $182.50 in a year. If you’d invested that money instead, then in 50 years it would have grown to over $10,000! (Assuming an 8% rate of return.)
Likewise, each individual bottle looks sparkly clean. But from an environmental perspective? Filthy.
The Dirty Truth about “Clean” Bottled Water
According to The Pacific Institute, the energy to produce and use each plastic bottle is equal to filling it one-quarter full of oil. Ewww! And that’s just for the bottle itself – it doesn’t count the carbon cost of transporting it while it’s full of water.
To Be Continued…
Stay tuned for more juicy details! In my next post, we’ll delve even deeper into bottled beverages’ footprints. Until then, pour yourself a tall glass of water and enjoy!
Thanks for reading, and for taking the next step to becoming SuperGreener!
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