Plastic Water Bottle Conundrum

Plastic Water Bottle Conundrum

My mom always says, “If everyone gives one dollar to a cause, the world will be a better place.” My twist on that is: if every person stops using one plastic water bottle a day, there will be much less waste in the world.

As our team completes planning for the Cherry Hill Earth Festival April 26 at Croft Farm in Cherry Hill, NJ, one of our biggest challenges  and details to express to people is: please use a reusable drink bottle and please do not use or sell plastic water bottles at the festival.


Cherry Hill Earth Festival 2013

My hope is that more and more people will start thinking about buying and using those cases upon cases of plastic water bottles. For now, it seems many people take the path of least resistance. They tell themselves what many of the bottling companies hope you’ll believe: that the plastic in the cases of plastic water bottles sold in stores every day are made from recycled plastic that can be recycled and reused. The problem is, that a used plastic bottle that goes back into the recycling stream then uses more energy to be recycled again. Eventually, plastics of different grades (#1, #2, etc.) eventually phase-separate, much like oil and water – and are rendered almost useless when it comes to re-use. The science of all this is more than I want to get into here; you can do the research and take a look at the many facts that are out there.

Using a stainless steel water bottle is the easiest answer. You can fill the bottle with your beverage of choice; it can go in the dishwasher or be hand-washed time and time again; and you have ZERO waste in the recycling stream from drinking your beverage on-the-go. Plastic water bottles to me are like plastic shopping bags: why create waste – recyclable or not- when you can simply use a product made to be reused over and over again?

At our Earth Festival, we have requested that every one of the organizations displaying at the festival and our volunteers and partners, not use plastic water bottles and certainly not sell them. We’ll have to do the rounds throughout festival day and carefully and gently make the few who have those bottles in hand, aware that nixing those plastic bottles is yet another way to conserve resources and energy in our world.

The perplexing question is, why don’t MORE people get it? Why do we have to explain the ‘plastic water ban’ for the EARTH Festival? It’s an easy thing to adopt in your life every day. Simply stop using those plastic bottles. Mother Earth will thank you.

Waste Not – Want Not

Experts say the average American uses about 80 gallons of water a day at home. National Geographic’s Water Footprint Calculator shows Americans use about 2000 gallons a day when you factor in food, energy, transportation, products we buy and more. Only 5% of water is used at home; 1% of the world’s water is for human consumption.

In many places, clean water is an anomaly. This video from Kathmandu is the most shocking thing I have seen related to abusing our water supply. This human behavior – dumping every kind of waste in waterways so that the waste will go ‘away’ –  has been going on for decades. There are many similar videos river dump in Nepal-500x334showing how pollution is a way of life in this  nation.

During my NJ Learns Education for Sustainability training, one of the most important lessons I have learned from Jaimie Cloud of The Cloud Institute is that when it comes to waste – there is ‘no such thing as away.’

Sustainability is all about environmental, social, educational and economic practices so a community, a city,  a state, a nation and the world can thrive for generations to come. This extreme kind of environmental destruction will continue to choke people. Thousands of people in the world die every day from air pollution including in places such as Kathmandu.

We can be thankful we live in a society where many people respect the earth. There is still so much more we can do in our everyday lives to be more aware of what we are using, abusing and throwing ‘away.’ There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to sustainability: recycling probably tops that list. There are still so many people who just throw everything in the same trash bin. Perhaps they believe it’s someone else’s job to recycle things. It’s not for them to be concerned with.

Back to the water we use: the National Geographic Freshwater Initiative simply states ‘Water is Life.’ Spend a few minutes looking through the links on this site to better understand why and how water is precious and why we should all be more aware of how we use and abuse water. Then consider cutting your water usage to help sustain our world’s water supply. Every drop does count.