Friday in Focus: Reusable Water Bottles

"Friday in Focus" is my weekly time to stop and reflect on the changes that I've made to live more sustainably, how I came to make those choices, and whether or not those choices are still an accurate reflection of my goals and values. It is a moment to continue in my effort to live deliberately.

I have never really had a "bottled water habit," per se, so making the decision to give it up was an easy one for me. As in many other of my life's decisions, I had more-or-less been making the sustainable choice all along for reasons of frugality. If money is the only motivator (and for me, it was for awhile), then the cost comparison between tap water and bottled water is enough to choose the tap. My decision to completely swear off bottled water, however, was motivated by concerns that are related to health, the environment, and human rights, in addition to my pocketbook.

Health: Currently, I am very lucky. We have a neighborhood well and our water is exactly what water should be: cold, wet, and devoid of any weird flavors. I have not always been so lucky. I have lived in several different cities and many (if not all) of them have had horrible-tasting water. Usually a water filter remedied this, but I still worried about contaminants that might be in my city water. Like many people, I assumed that bottled water was somehow more pure and therefore better for me than what came out of the tap. Such is not the case. Tap water is regulated by the EPA, whose Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water has issued extensive regulations on the production, distribution and quality of drinking water, including regulations on source water protection, operation of drinking water systems, contaminant levels and reporting requirements. Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the FDA, because it is sold as a food, which has far less stringent testing and reporting requirements. Bottled water companies are not required to test their water for contaminants nor are they required to disclose their findings if they do choose to test. Independent testing has shown that bottled water contains all sorts of chemical pollutants. Many times, bottled water is just tap water that is put into a bottle and then sold to you at a 1,900% profit.

Environment:  Close your eyes and call up an image of your bottled water of choice. Imagine filling it up seven times with water and filling it one third full of oil. That's only part of the resources that it takes to make that one bottle of water. Seventeen million barrels of oil per year--enough fuel for more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year--go to making single-use, disposable water bottles. What a waste.

Human Rights:  You would think that on a planet that is 2/3 water; there would be plenty to go around, right? Well, sure, if you dig drinking salt water. Only 3% of Earth's water is fresh, and 69% of that water is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. The tiny little sliver that is left is all we've got to work with. It's precious. We can't afford to waste it. We all need it to live, which is why I think access to water is a human right. The instance of Coca-Cola using scarce water in India to make soft drinks while local farms dry and whither illustrates how luxuries are being given priority over necessities. That's not something I support and I express that opposition by refusing to financially support those business practices.

So, for all of these reasons (and then some) I bought myself a reusable stainless steel water bottle. I use it every day, all day. I refill it out of the tap at home and out of the water fountain at work. An unforeseen benefit has been the dramatic increase in the amount of water that I drink, which has made me a healthier person. I went from drinking maybe 8 ounces of water a day to drinking 75 ounces. Many people cite convenience as their reason for buying bottled water, but what could be more convenient that always having a bottle of water with you? My water bottle comes with me everywhere, so it didn't take long for me to get in the habit of always having it filled and ready to go. My goal for the future is to keep on keepin' on, but also to be more supportive of Steve in his efforts to fully make the transition too. For about a year he had a Sigg, which he used occasionally, but he still took the free bottled water that was available to him at work. The Sigg exploded when we forgot it (full) in the car on an icy winter night. Maybe that's something I should do this weekend...get him a new replacement water bottle and a kiss for encouragement.

What about you? Have you ditched the water bottle habit? Have you found a reusable water bottle that you really love?

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