Friday, August 24, 2012

Bottled Water Rant part 2

I'm an ardent, tree hugging environmentalist. I'm a proud member of Millions Against Monsanto, the epitome of evil. I was using reusable grocery bags before reusable grocery bags were cool. I grow veggies in my back yard and gave up meat. There is one area, however, where you will find me speaking out against the rest of the eco movement, and that's on the subject of bottled water. I know water bottles are adding all sorts of plastic to the world that we don't need, I know that some of the companies that bottle water victimize all sorts of people and take their clean water away to sell for profits, I know some bottled water is just local tap water, and I know that the bottled water companies do not have to meet the same water purity standards as good old tap, but I still defend bottled water. Why, you may wonder? Because it is absolutely essential, because I like the taste of my favorite brand better, because I remember the time when I couldn't get decent water to drink when I went out, because I care about my body so I don't drink soda or sugary drinks, because a lot of places won't let you take your own water containers in, and because Martha Jr. almost had heat stroke for lack of clean, cold water at a "green" event we attended recently.

That last reason is the scary one. We attended a big outdoor event during the heat of summer. We were out of town staying in a hotel and could not prepare as I would have here at home. I was not able to pack up a cooler full of ice and reusable bottles of water; I had to rely on what I could find at the event. The event promoters were encouraging everyone to "be green" and said they would not sell bottled water, but would have water stations. When we got there we quickly used up the water we were able to pack with us. (Hotel tap with some nasty ice from the machine down the hall.) We headed to the water station and found.... a hose. An old, used, disgusting garden hose. The water that came out of it was warm and yellowish and not something I wanted to drink. That was after standing in the sun for 20 minutes just to get to the hose to begin with! It was awful. We tried dousing a towel and using that to cool off but it wasn't any use. The warm water just didn't work and Martha Jr. started to get dizzy enough that we had to leave the event to seek out air conditioning. Turns out we weren't the only ones- there were so many people suffering the symptoms of heat stroke they had to call out the local mass casualty unit. Dozens of people went to the hospital. Yep, it was a green event all right, so green it put all those people in the hospital for lack of cool, clean, drinkable water. I know some of them would have suffered heat stroke anyway, it was that hot, but I also know my daughter would have been fine if they were selling cold bottled water.

And now we are facing yet another hurricane. The bottled water was the first thing to go at the local Costco and I was happy to see it. It means people know what can happen in a storm and are taking the situation seriously. I picked up some extra bottles myself when I found them at the grocery store. I have several large containers that I will also fill if the storm hits our area, but I use those for hygiene, not drinking. I keep a large 5 gallon water cooler (the big ridged orange ones with a spigot) by two sinks and those are used for hand washing. I have two large garbage cans (that were never used for garbage) I put in two of our showers and fill with water for hand washing and flushing toilets. Now that we have dogs, I'll also fill some smaller containers with water for them. I also buy 5 gallon containers of bottled water, the kind that you up-end over a dispenser, and keep those on hand every storm season. (Whole Foods sold the dispensers several years ago; I'm so happy I bought one!) I have water in a variety of containers, from single use/single serve bottles to large containers I fill myself, and they are each necessary for my storm prep.

After a storm and in the event of any emergency bottled water is the absolute first thing survivors must have. They need it before food, they need it before shelter, they need it before electricity is restored. You can not survive more than a few days without clean water to drink, and sometimes those plastic bottles are the only way to get that water to the people who need it. (Even better if they already have their own supply on hand, but you have to remember that if someone's entire house is wiped out they may have stored plenty of water but not be able to get to it, so once again bottled water from first responders is essential. And I say that because I've heard comments from people who haven't been through a natural disaster that everyone should be prepared, and if they aren't then too bad. They don't consider that people may have prepared but having your house flattened kind of makes that a moot point.)

Finally, I say to those who would ban my bottled water, ban sodas first!! They cause a lot more harm than water in terms of public health; I mean, look at the obesity rates in this country! If I didn't have bottled water to drink and I was absolutely dying of thirst, and sodas were the only choice, I would drink regular Coca Cola (OK, I confess, I love Coca Cola... but I never ever drink it due to the calories) and get fat, fat, fat. Those liquid calories are dangerous! (I would NOT drink diet soda; it tastes disgusting and artificial sweeteners give me headaches, and they make people fat too because they make you crave sweets.)

Yes, bottled water causes all sorts of problems, but maybe the answer is to address those individual problems, not by banning bottled water but by making it better. Greedy corporations are preying on third world people and stealing their clean water? Well, that's where government needs to step in- make laws against that. The water isn't safe or pure? Make laws for that. (Which they should have done already anyway.) The soda companies are just selling bottled tap? Make them say so! (Sometimes you just need water... in a single serve bottle... and people will buy it anyway even if it is tap, but it's good to know.) They use too much plastic? Figure something out- one brand claims to use less plastic. (My favorite brand, actually, when I'm not drinking seltzer water.) Make that mandatory, or come up with some other type of packaging, like the biodegradable corn starch containers some manufacturers are using. There are solutions to every problem, but banning bottled water completely is not a good solution in this case.

No comments: