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03 July 2010 @ 06:27 pm
Buy a bottle!  
As a genteel environmentalist, I am sometimes accused of wanting to destroy industry. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I could not live without my stompy boots and red lipsticks, which industry provides reliably. But there are a few industries that I think we could happily do without*. The major one of these is bottled water.

I loathe the stuff. It uses an enormous amount of precious water to make bottles that are most often single-use, then fills them up with H2O that is usually no better than what I can get from my tap (and in some cases IS what I get from my tap), then carts them about the countryside using up more water and fuel, then the empties end up scattered about public areas like the square outside my house, or floating in the sea.

Today I have been thinking about it more than usual as I was incensed by this story. Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of NSW banned bottled water a year ago and instead put in more council taps and bubblers. Rather than needing to pay a few dollars per bottle to satisfy their thirst, people could stop at a bubbler, or refill their own bottles at a council tap.

In response, the bottled water companies (Coca-Cola Amatil being the main one in Australia) have launched campaigns on Facebook and YouTube to accuse Bundanoon of 'a PR spin campaign'.

How does that make sense? Bundanoon has done the sensible thing of providing locals with free, clean water when they're out and about. Would that more of Australia did likewise! Out in the country it's usually pretty easy to fill up a bottle, but in Sydney it's nearly impossible – unlike much of Europe where public taps and fountains are still commonplace. I have been forced to buy bottled water on a few occasions because I couldn't find a tap with potable water. In a first world city!

The bottled water industry says that it is just providing a healthy option: and I fully agree that bottled water is better than sugary fizz. However, in almost all of the developed world, tap water in your own bottle is a cheaper, more eco-friendly, and every bit as healthy an option. And for people whose water tastes as manky as Adelaide's, home filters provide an economically sensible option.

As for bottles, I love my Siggs, but there are a load of other good re-usable options available from most department and camping shops. Old glass bottles make good refillable options at home, and you can keep a few in the fridge.


* And for anyone happy to make a case that indicates I am necessarily against capitalism, I point you to the thriving legal opium trade of the 19th century, which was destroyed via successive legal edicts. Public good often outweighs corporate desire, and I think this is one of the cases where it should. And now off to write to Clover Moore and ask her where all the taps are.
 
 
 
maevemistmaevemist on July 3rd, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
Can we also restore the public phone system so that Mobiles for anything other than emergencies can be abolished to please?

I am with you on the water. We have about 30 reusable plastic bottles in our house and I do not think tap water taste's any different than bottled water. I am lucky not to live in Adelaide though, where water needs to be boiled about 3 times before it is fit for human consumption. (that is if you do not have a filter.)

For the sake of full disclosure I do drink either bottled or boiled/filtered water when on holidays just because it was instilled in me that your body can react badly to local water 'issues' if you are not used to them.

Oh and I also reuse juice bottles to refill them with water after sterilising/washing them out thoroughly.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 3rd, 2010 09:44 am (UTC)
YES! Public phones! I've made calls for kids who were waiting for mum because there were no public phones for them to ring from. Madness!

I've heard the holiday water 'rule', but I have to say that having travelled much of the world, there are only a few places in the developed world where I would not drink the tap water, and they are all quite famous (like Adelaide). The bacteria and other microfauna in public water supplies are all monitored and filtered down to similar levels. You're far more likely to get sick from being on the plane or train in confined spaces next to someone with a virus!

Hurrah for reusing!
Casaella_irene on July 3rd, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)
I drink tap water in developed countries (not least because it is free! Even if it does irritate waiters slightly), but I keep to bottled water in Egypt, Turkey, and anywhere where my father mutters "Don't eat salad".
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 3rd, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
Exactly! Free! more money for good wine!

Yeah, I think it's reasonable in places where you can't trust the water. Though even then I tend to buy the big 10L sizes at reputable shops and fill my own bottle -- more economical, less packaging, and you can't always trust the small bottles at roadside vendors.
Casaella_irene on July 3rd, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
We were told to keep to bottled water on a school trip to China. These caused quite a problem when we rolled up at a shop to buy bottled water, each of us with a high denomination note.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 3rd, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
I can just imagine the poor shopkeeper's face!
Catscatsintheattic on July 3rd, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)
Bottled water is such a waste of energy and time. I drink nothing but tap water. The microbiologic quality is even better than that of bottled water. Every now and then I will buy a small bottle of water and then refill it until it's not good any more - I don't have a dishwasher and hand cleaning doesn't do a perfect job on bottles.

There is one exeption when I will buy bottled water and that is for mixing sparkling mineral water with juice - people drink that a lot here in the summer, and it's something I like to have in the house when I have guests.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 3rd, 2010 10:30 am (UTC)
I can cope better with bottles of mineral water and soda water, mostly because they are simply less common. But also because bottles are often glass, which has higher levels of recycling and is less environmentally damaging in the long term, or at least larger sizes of plastic, which are more economical uses than the common 600mL bottled water sizes.

Both are certainly better options from a health and environmental perspective than bottles of sugary fizz!
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 3rd, 2010 10:38 am (UTC)
Yes, and in those cases, I can come at it quite easily. I've purchased water myself in just such situations, though usually in the big 10L plastic containers, which will see you through a few days. But people feeling they need to drink several 600mL plastic bottles-worth a day for 'health' in most developed cities is simply crazy.

Though I must say that those worms are fine! I've drunk worse! It's the microbial sized ones you really need to worry about. The ones you can see are a bit gross, but generally just extra protein in the diet.

When I shattered my foot in Sydney, there was a ban on drinking the tap water unboiled for a week or so, because the levels of cryptosporidium and giardia were too high in the samples. I was on crutches with a heavy cast, and the idea of hopping about trying to boil water was just horrific, so I rang my friend the microbiologist who assured me that there was actually very little difference to the usual at all, just new far more sensitive testing equipment. He was right, and I was fine.

Which was a relief as I have had both of those parasites in my travels, and there is nothing worse than rushing to the loo on crutches!

Kareinakareina on July 3rd, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
Even better than buying a bottle--I keep my water in a CamelBak pack, which is also useful to carry things like my wallet, a sewing project, hand-lotion, etc. They are much better ergonomically to carry than a bottle, since the weight is distributed evenly along my spine.
Vaysh Swiftstormvaysh on July 3rd, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
I am drinking home-made lemonade (from Berlin's tap water), as we speak. :) Even my fitness studio recently has introduced a water fountain system where you bring your own bottle and for the small price of 15 cents can fill it, with flavour, even. :)
Hueyphoenixacid on July 3rd, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
I use water bottles too and my uni have water coolers installed everywhere. Unfortunately, people still buy massive amounts of plastic bottles for sports and similar events. :/
κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα: J-fists-stickittotheman_inbetween_ on July 3rd, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
This is just as odd for me to read as the heat-cold tips, since I thought it was obvious. Then again I was always the only one without any money at mandatory school trips and still try to fill my bottle at bathroom taps (which are usually placed so low even the tiniest of my - plastic, re-used - bottles doesn't fit under it, because where there's a loo there's someone also selling (expensive, sugary) beverages).

Having said that - HOW DOES ONE USE ICECUBES IN FRONT OF FAN? It was the only new bit of advice to me, obviously I saw the wrong sorts of US films, and I wonder about amount of cubes, density/spread, coldness (water bad? but you said water feature, but then it's not ice cubes) ... I know I should go to a supermarket or something but most are closed, others tiny and I'd have to put on trousers *limp*
maggiemarguerite_26 on July 3rd, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC)
*drive-by nod to this post*
lotus_lizzylotus_lizzy on July 3rd, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
I HATE bottled water! In the US, most tap waters are just as good as bottle waters. It is such a waste of $ and plastic. The hubby and I both own metal water bottles we lug around everywhere in order to drink our water, refiling them every day. And, if you want to filter your water, a Brita system is just as good either attached to your faucet or in a pitcher in the fridge.
ladyjanevaladyjaneva on July 3rd, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
and Brita filters can now be recycled too :-)
Keeper of the Superfluous Es!themostepotente on July 3rd, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
I always drink tap water, and I frequently make iced tea from it, too. Hell, I still drink water from the damn garden hose if I am working outside!
Snape's Angelangela_snape on July 3rd, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
I agree! My big issue has been finding a bottle I like... I found a nice BPA-free plastic one by Contigo that actually has me drinking more water because it's so easy to use. The metal ones are good, but most of the ones I've tried have plastic screw-caps that wear down over time & then the bottles leak/don't seal.

pir8fancier on July 3rd, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
We just had a huge victory here in California where BPA was banned from sippy cups and plastic bottles for children under 3. The chemical industry went berserk trying to stop this, their lobbyists swarming the state's capital.

You know, there's capitalism and there's flat out greed. If water companies want to abuse the environment with their plastic bottles, then they need to step up to the plate and embark on a huge PR campaign about RECYCLING. Put out recycling bins with THEIR name on it. On every corner. Arrange to with local government for pickup. WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!!!!!!!!!!! Then they could be the "responsible" water company. The bottler that "cares." I'm sure it would be bullshit of the highest order, but it would be responsible and it actually might INCREASE their sales. Green is in.

Edited at 2010-07-03 05:40 pm (UTC)
ladyjanevaladyjaneva on July 3rd, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
although recycling is problematic too. Plastic only gets 'downcycled' and not properly recycled.
But yes, it'd be an improvement over the current situation.
pir8fancier on July 3rd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
I know, it's not a "fix" but it's a step in the right direction. Also, if a bottler developed a plastic that COULD be recycled properly? That's the direction they should go, not pouring money into PR campaigns.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 4th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Do you ever read Harper's Magazine? Page 16, December 2009 issue reprints a section of the minutes of the BPA Joint Trade Association, which is one of the most cynical documents I have read in my life, and I have read Hansard since I was 13. The tactics they were pursuing to keep their products selling, rather than saying 'Oh, good point, illness and developmental abnormalities are bad', were horrifying.

And yes, more recycling, and bring back bottle deposits and companies having to pay for the disposal of their own bottles! Corporate responsibility is not just for BP!
ladyjanevaladyjaneva on July 3rd, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
I think I'm falling in love with you.

I read and thought a lot about plastic and bottled water (and big cooparations), and some time ago I switched from using the same plastic water bottle over and over to a camping bottle made out of some kind of steel or whatever. Did you know why the water in plastic bottles has a 'best used until' date? BEcause by that date too many chemicals have leached from the plastic into the water.

Do you know this one: http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/

And I can also highly recommend Beth Terry's blog (she started me on this): fakeplasticfish.com

Please visit and read a bit if you haven't already :-)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 4th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
I had seen that first link, but not the second. Wow! I am not sure if I could actually get myself down to no plastic, though we do have the cat litter in paper bags here, and a good co-op where you can get many cosmetics, especially gentle shampoo, decanted into your own bottles. I think I will need to have a plastic audit around the house! Thank you!
ladyjanevaladyjaneva on July 4th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!

I still use way too many plastic things in my life, but Beth Terry has certainly opened my eyes. For lent I tried to eat nothing that was sold wrapped in plastic - impossible. However, receiving a box of vegetables once a week from a local organic farm has done a lot in terms of reducing my waste. And it's also forced me to try out new food I'd never have bought in the store (and of which I didn't even know it was grown around here, like fennel)

Unfortunately buying in bulk and re-filling your own bottles with shampoo and such is still unknown where I live :-(.
(Deleted comment)
Meredyth: Myrtlemeredyth_13 on July 3rd, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
ps. Bundanoon totally rocks - I love that tiny little town, even if it is part of the 'OMG we're rich and need a country seat' Sydney rural belt. It always makes me think of Brigadoon, probably because whenever I go there the place is shrouded in fog, and the only green grass in greater NSW.

:)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 4th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
You deleted! Bundanoon is totally fabbo -- in fact, I think we should actually use the car this month and go on a road trip! XXX
Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 5th, 2010 07:06 am (UTC)
Yeah ... I'm happy sharingmy stupid opinions with you, but I just didn't want to deal with the masses. Whatev.

You should! When we lived near Canberra we used to meet my brother and his brood down there as a half way point. C and I once spent a new years eve in a cottage on a property in Sutton Forest just to get away from all the noise and fireworks. I think we're known around the place for taking two dogs and a cat to various B&Bs.
bare_memabonwitch on July 4th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
Urgh. I read somewhere that bottled water costs 200% of what it does coming out of your tap, too. People are so weird and specific about what they consider "too germy" and likely to make them sick. I know people who prefer what I can only assume is the specific taste of plastic leaching into their bottled water over tap water.

Personally, I use a filter and an old glass juice bottle.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 4th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
At least! And yes, the 'health' benefits are a complete myth in most of the western world. Repeated studies have shown that there is a higher danger from bottled water than tap water in most developed cities: and the cities that have real issues know who they are! Your solution is practical and economical, why more people don't follow it I will never know.
Lisbet Karlsdottirlisbet on July 4th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
I'm lucky...the tap water in our city is good quality. And we also use a Brita filter on a pitcher we keep in the fridge, which I adore. And my workplace has a filter attached to the kitchen faucet...those are great, too. The only time we buy bottled water is when we go camping in the summer.

The town of Bundanoon sounds awesome, with their bubblers and council taps! We definitely need more places like that.

Oh, and yes, we need more public pay phones, too! My husband and I recently got lost on our way to a birthday party, and wanted to call the host for directions. Naturally we couldn't find a pay phone. And then we finally found one, and it was out of order! We ended up driving around some more and finally spotted the street we'd been looking for...but it was quite irritating to not be able to call and let them know we were somewhere nearby, but in need of directions (computer-generated maps & directions failed us!).
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 4th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Brittas rock! They even have sensibly shaped jugs. Bless!

More Bundanoons and more public phones: if the phone companies are worried about vandalism, they could site them in places that were less dangerous, perhaps doing profit shares with all-day-night businesses.
glorafinglorafin on July 4th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
If the bottled water I drink every day is of the sparkling variety, am I forgiven?

I literally could not live without it...
arseniclace_80 on July 5th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
your post made me think about my bottled water usage again. I am not a fan of tap water, so I can drink a lot of bottled water. I normally have a drink bottle with a water filter, that I fill with tap water. Though I must confess I bought this as a money saving option rather then to save the environment.
Prior to the filter bottle, I used to buy the 2 of the 15lt bottles, and fill my drink bottle with that.
When I go out if I have forgotten my drink bottle I will generally by bottle water.
I find the lack of bubblers annoying , especially when you have kids. But I also find the idea of drinking from them disturbing, especially when your mouth hits the shield thing, or they don't work properly.
I think the idea of banning bottled water is brilliant, especially in a coastal town, as long as they are providing easy alternative.
(not sure if this comment has a specific point, apart from being a general information about my water drinking habits.)
*p.s I love sigg, but in winter (autumn and spring too)in tassy, they can be too cold to hold comfortably :(.