A Bottle of No Thanks, Please

bottled water

Bottled water is so easy.  It’s water, in a bottle, genius!  I remember when it was chic and served in the finest restaurants.  Then one morning I woke up and my mother told me we were getting a water bottle for the house.  No longer was the tap good enough.  After another five years or so she didn’t want to wait for the Poland Spring man to deliver our weekly allotment of water, so there it was: bottles upon shimmering bottles in our refrigerator.  People come to our office for a meeting or you head off to a job interview and what to they offer?  A bottle of water.  It’s like an angel on your shoulder wishing you the safest and most comforting taste of pure H2O.

Never once did I ask myself, “What’s wrong with bottled water?”  Not until I realized how many bottles collected into my recycling bin.  Trash is a funny thing, one moment it’s in your kitchen and the next it vanishes.  Presumably we trust that our trash goes…Well, I don’t really know where I thought my trash went.

I recently read the book, The World Without Us, which contained an entire chapter dedicated to the evils of plastic.  It turns out that all the plastic we use and love, (hey I have to admit that it’s nice when you can drop a bottle without it shattering all over the floor), ends up in our oceans, and takes about a gajillion years to decompose (maybe I’m exaggerating, but I doubt it).  The impact it has on the fish, mollusks, birds and plant life of the sea is completely shocking and promises to change the ecosystem as we know it.  There really is no known half-life for plastic.  It breaks into little pellets sure, but how does it react with the natural world, and what does it become as it degenerates

One of the big offenders is the bottled water industry.  We’ve become as addicted to bottled water in recent years as stockbrokers in the 80s were to cocaine.  In fact every restaurant I enter now offers bottled water both flat and sparkling, and then almost disdainfully, they mention that tap is available too.  They make you feel like an idiot if you order the tap water.  They make you feel cheap, plebian.  I always answer, Los Angeles’ finest. 

Tap water was important when I was a kid, not just to stay hydrated, but because the water supply contained fluoride.  Many bottled waters don’t contain fluoride and this is leading to children with unhealthy teeth.  The reason being…You guessed it, bottled water.  Fluoridated water is free from our taps, and makes your kids’ teeth happy. Most bottled water does not contain fluoride. 

Lewis Black, the comedian, sums this entire bottled water thing up quite hysterically by saying we’ve sullied even our most ample and free resource.  About 70% of the planet is covered in ocean and 2% of the earth’s water is fresh water.  To put that in perspective, there are roughly 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth and 2% is fresh.  That’s a lot of fresh water.  And somehow we’ve agreed to pay our hard earned money for this gift of nature.

And, upon agreeing to buy this water we’ve also created a cost that nature must pay…We pitch in 38 billion bottles of water a year, roughly $1 billion worth of plastic.

But, enough with the depressing stuff.  On with the progress!

There are restaurants rebelling against these industries and while blindly voting with your dollar is not advised, supporting the fight is.  In San Francisco, there is a new trend: high end restaurants serving carafes of filtered tap water.  In some cases they even carbonate the water themselves.Glass carafes served into glasses of water equals much less waste. So we applaud these restaurants and suggest that you demand the same from your restaurant in your neighborhood.

So, find out what restaurants in your area do this.  If your favorite one doesn’t, then urge them to.  We can make a change, I think.  We just have to want to.  And if anyone tells you bottled water is better, tell them they’re wrong.  Free, clean, healthy water is a privilege.  In some countries it’s impossible to find.  Save the money you spend on water to buy something that can actually help you save those pure, crystalline springs they harvest all that clean crisp water from.