San Francisco has recently banned the sale of single-use bottled water at all events held on city property. The act is part of the city’s ambitious mission to send no waste to the landfill by 2020. To help San Franciscans get in their daily 8 glasses the city has also installed nine water bottle refilling stations throughout the city with more to come.
It’s a step in the right direction. In the United States it’s been estimated that we throw away 2.5 million plastic water bottles every hour. Hour. Or 40 million bottles a day. Those bottles are clogging up our landfills and even our oceans, rivers and streams. And for no reason. Bottled water is not healthier than tap water and in fact, 40 percent of the time, it is tap water. But it’s tap water that’ s been sitting in a plastic bottle for a few weeks or months before you get to drink it. Ew.
In addition to being just tap water with a fancy label, most bottled water sits in large warehouses for several days to several months before it is shipped to your local store. These warehouses are most certainly not heat controlled and in the summer months can reach extremely high temperatures inside. When the water and the plastic heat up the chemicals in the plastic begin to leach into your water and then it doesn’t matter how many times your tap, or even spring, water has been filtered: now it’s plastic soup.
The worst of these chemicals is bisphenoal A, which you probably know as BPA. Studies have proven that it is a toxic chemical that can cause health problems and wreak havoc on the hormone level.
Another reason to avoid buying bottled water is that it puts more money in the pocket of Big Business. It’s one thing for big corporations to create a product and then make us believe we need it. It’s another thing to take a basic human need (in this case, water) and make it into a product. Not only do these corporations own the bottled water they are selling us, but they also gobble up water rights when and wherever they can. And that is scary. Besides, depending on where you live your tap water could cost as little as $0.08 cents per 1,000 liters. But 1 liter of bottled tap water? Anywhere from $1.75 to $3.00—that’s a mark up of anywhere from 240 to 10,000 times the price for tap water.
To avoid plastic water bottles, consider investing in a stainless steel water bottle that you can take with you wherever you go. They come in all shapes and sizes and can easily fit into any sized purse or backpack. We are fans of the Klean Kanteen brand but recently I was given a square water bottle by the brand Clean Bottle and I love it. It’s square so that when you drop it, it doesn’t roll away from you and the bottom of the bottle unscrews so you can thoroughly clean the bottle from both ends—and no it doesn’t leak!
You can also buy a water filter for your house, like the ubiquitous Brita filters. You can attach these filters right on to your faucet or buy a pitcher with a filter in it. If you absolutely cannot avoid buying a bottle of water (and we’ve all been there) then look for the bottle with the safest plastic as possible. Just turn the bottle over and look for a little triangle with a number in it. If the number is 2, 4 or 5, it’s pretty safe. These plastics are the most resistant to chemical leaching and are never transparent in color. If the number is 1, 3, 6 or 7, it’s not really safe at all. Don’t reuse plastic bottles with these numbers on them and don’t forget to check all plastic bottles in your house, including baby bottles.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son (with another baby on the way). She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.