Spent last week serving on the faculty of Camp JRF, the Reconstructionist movement’s wonderful summer camp. Much to say about this very special place: the beautiful Poconos location, the devoted, multi-talented staff, the rich spiritual/educational program that pervades throughout. As a Jewish summer camper from way back myself, I am especially impressed at how devoted this camp is to the creation of a safe, caring and inclusive camp community. As Camp JRF’ers (including my two sons) will attest, it is Jewish community as it should be.
That’s all by way of lead-in to the real subject of this post: bottled water.
The Nalgene water bottle is, of course, an essential piece of camp equipment – anyone who has ever attended camp is familiar with the constant directive to campers to keep their water bottles with them and to keep them filled with tap water in order to keep dreaded dehydration at bay. Now that I’m back home, though, I’ve decided to continue following my own directive. In fact, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to swear off bottled water for good.
Why? Because I’ve known for some time that our national obsession with this particular “beverage” has profound environmental, economic, and even public health consequences. So why shouldn’t I continue to keep the Nalgene handy?
A few trenchant bullet points on the subject:
– Last year, Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water, even though bottled water isn’t healthier or safer than tap water.
– While the EPA regulates the quality of public water supplies, the agency has no authority over bottled water. Some studies indicate that certain brands of bottled water test positive for chemical and bacterial contamination at higher levels than tap water.
– One out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy denies drinkable water to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water “varieties” from around the globe, not one of which we actually need.
– Americans went through about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, 167 for each person. We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year – more than $1 billion worth of plastic (while the recycling rate for this particular kind of plastic is only 23%).
– We’re moving 1 billion bottles of unnecessary water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That’s a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water.
Here’s a comprehensive article about the subject from a recent issue of Fast Company. Another excellent, if older, article on the subject can be found in E Magazine. If you are interested in engaging in a little “anti-bottled water activism” check out the Think Outside the Bottle campaign. (Heartfelt thanks to Lesley Williams for originally expanding my water consciousness on this issue…)