Last week I saw a provocative ad created for Brita+Nalgenes’ Filter For Good campaign, accompanied by the first commercial I’ve seen that shows a bottle of water for what it is. An energy inefficient, toxic commodity that we use once and throw “out”, where it languishes for 1, 000 years. Now, I don’t buy bottled water anymore, but just a few years ago, before I “knew” all this, every morning I would buy a cup of coffee, and a bottle of water.  It’s just possible that over the last 5 years I’ve purchased 1, 500 water bottles. (By the way interesting challenge to do your own math.)

Back when I used to buy all that bottled water, I also smoked. And while these two don’t seem likely bed fellows I can make a pretty good argument that the habits have their similarities. Both require a denial of the hard ugly facts. In the case of smoking you ignore the cancer threat, in the case of water bottles you deny how utterly wasteful the purchase was, from pollution, to energy costs, to your health (see BPA research.) The most important connection I would point out though, is education.

It’s hard to believe that back in the 1940s when everyone was smoking up a storm that they actually thought it would not have adverse health effects. But without the science, and the official health advisories, there was plausible deniability. Same goes for bottled water. Now that we know what’s really happening to all those inane purchases, really how can we just keep buying? Consider these facts:

  1. Of the 50 billion plastic water bottles used by Americans in 2006, 38 billion of them were thrown away, unrecycled. The 1.5 million barrels of oil it takes to produce 50 billion bottles could fuel 100, 000 cars for a year. And that does not even include the oil used for transportation.
  2. Last year, the average American used 167 water bottles, but only recycled 38.
  3. More than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away every day in the United States. This is a growing problem—it takes up to 1, 000 years for disposable water bottles to decompose.

Given these startling statistics, which have been circulating for quite some time, I figured there would have to be a groundswell against plastic water bottles, but it’s been a slow start to say the least. Finally, here’s an ad with the right visuals, reminding me of the first picture I saw of a smokers black lung. Unfortunately, the plastic narrative is a bit more complex, especially when its so easy to throw “out” the offender “out of sight, out of mind.” But once you put it all together, and you realize how pervasive the plastic problem is, a water bottle on a shelf might just look like that nasty lung in a cooler. It does to me…

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Tags: The Truth About Bottled Water

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