Message in a Bottle
“If I don’t get a drink of water soon, I’ll shrivel up and die!” I said this today after being in the sun only a few hours. I was with my family at the beach and had forgotten to bring any water. The next thing I knew, I was racing around in all directions, exclaiming, “Where have all the water fountains gone?” This is 2013. Public water fountains are a thing of the past. Today, America depends on something even more convenient: disposable, plastic water bottles.
The phenomenon of the plastic water bottle is fairly recent. They certainly weren’t around when I was a kid. If I was thirsty when I was young, all I needed was a cup and a faucet. End of story. But during the late 1990’s, soft drink companies Pepsico and Coca-Cola introduced individual water bottles to America and convinced us that we needed these all along. Back in the day, the publicity campaigns of Aquafina and Dasani centered around the idea that bottled water was healthier than tap water. I remember when I first witnessed people buying bottled water I was shocked. “Water is pumped right into our houses! It’s practically free! Why would anyone buy it? And what’s next? Air for sale?” So, I stayed away from plastic water bottles as long as I could. But unfortunately, something caused me to cross over to the dark side: I became a mom. One of the earliest facts I learned about kids was that they love to run. In fact, the only time they stop running is to scream, “I’m thirsty!” And when they’re thirsty, they are not pleasant to be around. Getting them a drink of water in the least amount of time is of utmost importance. So, when I saw parents carrying around single-serving water bottles for their children, I was impressed by the convenience. I also thought it was the healthier choice.
A couple of days ago, I was checking out at Trader Joes and remembered I needed water bottles. Instead of picking out a couple of individual bottles, I found it easier to just grab a twenty-four pack. As I set the case down in front of the checker, I immediately felt ashamed. I started visualizing these twenty-four bottles stacked up in a landfill and was upset that I would be personally responsible for harming Mother Earth. A voice in my head yelled, “But wait! You have kids, and they get REALLY cranky when they’re thirsty. You can’t take the chance that you’ll be trapped in a small space with them at a time like that. It’s for your survival, really.” Before I knew it, the checker scanned the water and put it in my cart. I mumbled, “Thank you,” and pushed my cart out of the store as fast as I could. On the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the twenty-four water bottles in the trunk of my car. I could almost hear them calling to me. I seriously considered going back to the store and returning them. I realized the time had come. I was almost ready to give up plastic water bottles for good, as soon as I answered one final question: Is tap water really unhealthy? When I got home, I typed ‘plastic water bottles’ into Google. All the frightening statistics appeared in front of me.
- 1,500 water bottles are purchased every second in the U.S.
- In 2011, 9.1 BILLION gallons of bottled water were sold.
- Less than 25% of bottled water is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfills.
- It takes a water bottle around 450 years to degrade.
I kept searching and finally found the answer I was looking for. In 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded, after a four-year study, that bottled water is not healthier than tap water. In fact, contaminants were actually found in some samples of bottled water. So, tap water is safe! (Or, at least as safe as bottled water.) I decided it’s time for me to take a stand. On that day, I vowed to never again buy a case of bottled water to keep in the house. Instead, I’ll buy a couple of reusable bottles and fill them with tap water. I won’t stop there. I’m going to research what else I can do to “bring back the tap.” And along the way, maybe I’ll even find the answer to my original question: Where have all the water fountains gone?SHARE THIS