Everyone has their pet peeves: slow walkers, loud laughers, that guy in your Challenges class who won’t stop clicking his pen, people who ask “Can I ask you a question?” (you already did!). If you can’t already tell, all of these things bother me.
However, I have a bigger pet peeve: bottled water. I could probably go off for a full hour, listing all of the reasons why bottled water is stupid and not environmentally friendly and why reusable water bottles are far superior. However, lucky for you, I only have 500 words, so I’ll give you the SparkNotes version.
Grievance number one: bottled water is the beverage equivalent of flushing money down the toilet. Literally. Buying bottled water wastes both money and water. According to an estimate by the Water Footprint Network, three liters of water are required for the production of every half-liter that goes into a water bottle.
Additionally, Harvard University’s Department of Sustainability states that bottled water is 3,000 percent more expensive per gallon than tap water. For those of you who don’t trust tap water (which is totally understandable considering our recent lead scare), rest assured. Food and Water Watch states that all tap water (from up-the-hill, at least) is every bit as clean, safe and healthy as bottled water.
That brings me to my second point; bottled water kills marine life. Pew Trusts estimates that plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds annually. If that doesn’t seem bad enough, Pew Research also suggests that nearly half of sea turtles and 60 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic.
Ingesting this plastic is incredibly harmful to marine life, as it takes up space in their stomachs, tricking them into feeling full, which causes them to starve to death.
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that while eliminating all plastic from our over-packaged, 21st-century lifestyles may be unrealistic, the plastic used for bottled waters can be ruled out as completely unnecessary.
Finally, absolutely nothing about bottled water is sustainable. Most people may not know that the plastic in water bottles comes from refined oil—a non-renewable fossil fuel. Even if we ignore the fact that oil refineries produce tons of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change (1.22 million per year on average, according to the EPA), the limited availability of oil means we won’t be able to make plastic forever.
“But what about recycling?” you may ask. I hate to break it to you, but recycling doesn’t help. Plastic water bottles are a single-use plastic, just like plastic bags, plastic cutlery and plastic straws (save the turtles!). Basically, these single-use items are made of such low-quality plastic that melting them down to be recycled would degrade their quality to the point that the
plastic becomes completely unusable. So instead of recycling stuff that will just end up in landfills or inside sea animals to feel better about your consumption habits, just avoid single-use plastics altogether.
Before I conclude, I do feel the need to praise all of the beautiful, environmentally-conscious people out there, faithfully filling and refilling their reusable water bottles. We really do love to see it! As for everyone else, please think about finding a greener, cleaner way to hydrate. At the end of the day, every bottle counts.