Op-Ed: Tapping into Sustainability, Eliminating Bottled Water
It is difficult to beat the allure of buying a nice bottle of cold water when walking by a cooler on a hot day. After all, that was the reason why bottled water became popular in the first place. People also buy bottled water for the taste, safety, and even fashion. But as we sip on that delicious, branded, and over-priced water, we should consider the consequences of doing so. Currently, America’s annual demand for plastic bottles requires more than 17 million barrels of oil in the production process, which is enough to fuel a mind-boggling number of 1.3 million cars per year. To put this in perspective, the energy used in this production is enough to power 190,000 homes every year. With the average of three people in each American household, the energy wasted in plastic bottle production is enough to serve 570,000 people every year.
Not only is the bottled water industry bad for the environment, it is hard on our wallets. The suggested amount of daily consumption of water is eight glasses per day. If we drink that amount in bottled water, it would cost us approximately $1400 dollars per year. But if we choose to drink from the tap instead, it would cost us a mere $.49 annually. These savings could fund 800 cups of Starbucks coffee.
Naysayers might argue that bottled water is a safer alternative than tap water. This is a large misconception that seems to trend the United States. Municipal tap water is tested and regulated for chemical contamination several times every day by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), depending on the location. On the other hand, water bottlers are only required to run the same tests on its products once a year due to less regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. For coliform bacteria tests, municipal tap water is tested over a hundred times every month while water bottlers are only required to test for four times per month. Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, said “there is no reason to believe that bottled water is safer than tap water.”
On the question of taste, a senior lecturer at Queens University Belfast declared “the findings from [her] study indicate that people cannot correctly identify bottled water on the basis of its flavour.” In fact, Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of bottled water market) and Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of bottled water market), two companies whose products make up for 24 percent of the total bottled water market, are only purified municipal tap water, with little or no difference to what is available in our very own homes.
Small adjustments on behalf of community members could make a significant difference. Using reusable bottles is the simplest way of saving costs and always allows us to carry water on the go. Bottles with built-in filters are great replacements if we do not want to drink directly from the tap. Skidmore has also installed EZ H2O filters that supply filtered water in convenient locations on campus such as residential halls, Dining hall, the library, and Case Center.
For those living off campus or in an on campus apartment, there are even more convenient options. Pitchers with filters are the easiest way for an alternate source of water. Faucet mount filters filter water straight from the faucet and do not take up too much space but supply less water at a time. Countertop filters also filter straight from the faucet and can supply larger amounts of water.
Realistically a reduced use of bottled water is more practical than a complete abandonment. There are days when we need that emergency bottle of water from the cooler. Although it may seem daunting to move away from bottled water, the monetary and environmental gain from this change far outweighs the sacrifice.