Time to turn on the tap

Every second of every day, the United States consumes 1,500 bottles of water. Every second. This is happening even though 99.9% of us are living with clean, safe tap water. The demand for bottled water is manufactured by the beverage industry. There is no reason any of us needs to purchase bottled water; bottled water costs between $0.89/gallon to $8.26/gallon. Tap water costs pennies. If you drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, it will cost you around $0.50 (yes, fifty cents!) a year to do that out of your tap. Drinking the same amount of bottled water will cost you about $1,400 a year.

More than half of the bottled water sold is coming from another city’s tap. Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani account for 24% of the market and they have admitted they are selling tap water. Furthermore, public water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which requires multiple daily tests, and results are available to the public. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and requires only weekly testing, and results are not shared with the public. There is no way to know what is in the bottle of water you drink.  

Bottled water is also filled with chemicals and contaminants; German researchers found nearly 25,000 chemicals in one single bottle of water. They tested 18 samples that are sold worldwide; the chemicals they found in the water are the ones used to manufacture plastic resin (plastic bottles) and are known endocrine disruptors.  Effects of these chemicals include stunted growth, early puberty, premature birth, infertility and early menopause. Additionally, many toxins are found in bottled water as well, including phthalates, mold, microbes, benzenes and trihalomethanes. Researchers at the Environmental Working Group found that one bottled water brand spurred a 78% increase in growth of breast cancer cells. Yikes! Children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems should especially not be drinking bottled water.

Bottled water is extremely environmentally un-friendly. Making all of these plastic bottles for water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil and produces 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.  Why use all that oil for water, when we can get water for almost free? Further, last year the average American used 167 bottles of water. This adds up to 50 billion plastic water bottles being used annually in the United States. The amount of plastic water bottles purchased weekly can circle the globe five times. Five times!

As I have mentioned in a previous column, when plastic is "recycled," is not actually recycled, it’s "downcycled," which means it is made into something less than it was, and will eventually end up in our landfills. Only 23% of plastic water bottles get recycled. Plastic water bottles are one of the top three types of litter found on our beaches, shores and water ways. Each year, over 500 billion bottles end up in waterways worldwide. This is not just a United States problem, it’s a world problem, but we can start reducing the impact today! It’s easy!

What can you do? The best investment you can make is a water filter. You can purchase a pitcher, like a glass Soma pitcher or Brita. Also available are filters that can be installed on your faucet or under your sink. Any of these options will save you a lot of money in the long run rather than purchasing bottles of water. 

Furthermore, invest in a good refillable water bottle. The safest, most eco-friendly types are made of glass or stainless steel. My favorite is the glass Lifefactory bottle; I love feeling like I’m drinking out of a glass of water anywhere. Theses bottles have a protective covering, however they can still break if dropped on cement or another very hard surface. If you are too nervous about that or want to invest in a refillable bottle for your children, stainless steel is wonderful. Some of my favorite brands are Hydro Flask, S’well, and Klean Kanteen. Some of these are insulated, meaning they will keep your water cold for hours, even if left in a hot car.

Remember, even if you’re just one person making a change, you are indeed making a difference. You can reduce your waste and be an example for others! If you get into the habit of bringing a water bottle out with you when you leave your house, you will never be stuck thirsty, and you will always be able to refill your bottle at a tap anywhere you go. I have found that restaurants and coffee shops are more than happy to fill water bottles for you. The bottom line is that drinking tap water will simultaneously save you money, help you live healthier, and promote global sustainability! 

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Volume 8, Issue 19, Posted 9:01 AM, 10.04.2016