“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done. Then they begin to hope it can be done. Then they see it can be done. Then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” –Frances Hodgson Burnett
Clean drinking water is good. Plastic water bottles are bad. I’m sure there are going to be those that disagree, but to me, it’s a clear choice. So what are we to do?
Well thankfully, a number of city governments in the United States have started taking the first steps towards admitting that we have a problem. San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and St. Louis are just a few of the local city governments that have taken steps to ban, or have already banned, bottled water from government functions. Citing cost, and the availability of clean municipal drinking water, these city officials have decided to lead by example and just say no.
Unfortunately, a few city governments is not enough though. We need more. And that’s where you come in. If you live in the United States, check out this link and contact your local elected officials. Remind them (nicely) that you put them in office in order to lead by example and are wondering why they are spending your tax dollars on bottled water that destroy drinking water, waste petroleum and foul the environment. You may also want to show them some info about the Pacific Gyre and explain that it wouldn’t exist if people weren’t using “disposable” plastic items like water bottles to begin with.
Besides getting rid of bottled water in your own life and asking your local leaders to do the same, you can also get active in organizations like Take Back the Tap. Aptly named, TBT is a group of dedicated folks who help schools, restaurants, and organizations work towards convincing people that tap water in the United States just makes sense.
Recently, while speaking at Chico State University, I saw first-hand the progress that a Take Back The Tap campaign can achieve. Last year, Dr. Mark Stemen, a professor in the geology department, and guru of all things sustainable, asked his students what could be done about bottled water on campus. As he told me, their first instinct was to enact a ban, but, after talking about it more and researching it a bit, they came to realize that a ban would not be as effective as giving students an alternative. As a result, they launched a Take Back The Tap Campaign, started selling Kleen Kanteen bottles at the school store, and most importantly, had water filters that fit the bottles installed on water fountains on campus.
While the day that I was there was only the second since the fountains were retrofitted, there was already evidence to be seen of the change that is coming. More and more reusable bottles could be seen, Kleen Kanteen and otherwise, and everywhere I went I saw students filling their bottles. Once these students become used to drinking from fountains again (amazing that we need to retrain people to do this) they will no longer see bottled water as an alternative. And as they fan out and convince others of this same concept, change will come.
So now it’s your turn. How about it? Ready to get yourself a reusable bottle, kick the plastic bottle habit, save yourself some money, drink healthier water, and lessen your impact on the planet? Give it a shot and let me know what you find. Once you have, you’ll wonder why you ever used bottled water in the first place.
Dave Chameides is an environmental educator and freelance filmmaker. He writes alternative fuel articles for Edmunds.com and maintains the blogs 365 Days of Trash and Achieving Sustainability. While he is presently saving all of his trash for a year to better understand his environmental impact, his main focus is sustainability through education and believes that with knowledge all things are possible.