Every River Starts as a Trickle: Ban the Bottle Today!

“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.


Jo S.
Jo S2 years ago

Thanks Dave.

cynthia B.
cynthia l2 years ago

here in the USA plastic runs amok
it should be baned
it's toxic pollution

Jo Recovering
Jo S2 years ago

Thanks Dave.

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

I never buy the stuff and I can't understand why people have to carry a bottle where ever they go.

Danielle Samelson

My sister and I are soon to be 7th graders, and we started a project called Ban the Bottle. I want to write a letter to an elected official, I contacted Klean Kanteens to see if they can help me out, and I wanted to make a petition to ban water bottles. Dave, if you have any ideas to help me, let me know. My sister and I are continuing to update our new website, and we are going to post our project on there. Thanks for the article!

Bart W.
Bart W9 years ago

Go back to Glass bottles, Just like coke did for years. pay to have the old bottle washed. yes there is breakage but plasic breaks , so does a clay pot. i am sure we are all educated about how bad plasic is. Oh and for all the people who want the can, think about how hard it is to really get a good aluminum product. It is getting harder. Everyone thinks glass is a bad idea but make it thicker, clean it better with friendly detergent, and pass the bottle to someone who needs it. oh and if it does break melt it, but don't keep using plasic for everything it is really not that great for everything. I have hit up several used stores to buy glass products , not just for cooking but really nice glass drinking jars, i use for drinking. I have yet to break one in 3 years. Oh and for the mothers of tippy cupps, you might want to clean them more. juice is not suppose to be in it all the time it is bad for your kids.

Freda R.
Past Member 9 years ago

Undrinkable tap water can and does exist in the USA. My Mother lives in a rural area that has a local water system which constantly mails out warning letters for failing water quality tests. She is 87 and must have healthy water to consume. The alternate?? Until the funds are available for a new community well or whatever, she must utilize bottled water. She has no choice. It is a very sad state of affairs.

Bonnie Kuelker
Bonnie Sue9 years ago

Even with a filter there is still the lead and fluoride to consider. It doesn't take much of either of these to do damage and there's not much you can do to get them out. I do drink filtered water but it still scares me.

Rosalind Nicklin
Rosalind Nicklin9 years ago

Perhaps drinking water can be put into bottles not made of plastic or some type of container that will not polute.

Sustainable Dave
Dave Chameides9 years ago

As I mentioned in both earlier pieces I wrote, I'm aminly speaking to people who have healthy drinking water but choose to further destroy the planet, not to mention destroy drinkable water, by being lazy about it. Anyone who does not have access to clean drinking water has to do what they need to do to stay healthy, hopefully making the wisest choices available to them. I fully recognize that i sit here and type these ideas as a very lucky citizen of the US who has great drinking water coming out of the wall. Whihc is why it kills me to see so many people drink out of plastic.
Having said all of that, and you knowing more about your situation than i do (i'm assuming here that you do not have clean water out of the tap) any thoughts on what a solution might be?