My Nalgene Vow

nalgene_big.jpgSpent 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…)

6 Replies to “My Nalgene Vow”

  1. Glad to see you’ve joined me in refusing to buy or use bottled water. Long ago I toured the Evanston filtration (or whatever it’s called) plant and was impressed at the care taken with making sure our drinking water is safe and pure. Further, I don’t think any bottled water has fluoride in it, and it has been proven to be beneficial to the teeth, and helps avoid cavities. There are so many reasons NOT to use bottled water that it amazes me that so many intelligent people I know appear to be addicted to it.

  2. Thanks for your information on bottled water. We agree. I would like to add that you CANNOT find laundry detergent in cardboard boxes anymore. Most of it is liquid in huge non-biodegradable plastic containers. Oy.

    Ruth Rosen

  3. There is an alternative to the huge bottles of laundry detergent. I buy the concentrated kind, in much smaller bottles. Takes up less space and the bottles are recyclable; they have the little triangle on the bottom. At the risk of going commercial, I’ll say the brand is ALL .

  4. I was thinking about the subject the other day, when I saw a friend carrying around a bottle of Fiji brand bottles water. From what she told me, it’s water that comes from Fiji, thousands of miles away from Chicago. I wondered how many liters of oil were used to transport a liter of water from Fiji. It’s kind of sickening, isn’t it, to think of all the energy required to move water around.

  5. I’d like to direct your attention to this alarming article about where too much of our plastic waste ends up. If you needed any further encouragement to cut down on plastic waste (and waste in general), this article should do the trick.

  6. Thank you David. I printed out the article and will post it on a bulletin board in the school I work at. Everyone walks around with their bottles and the PTA buys them for the kids, too. Then…they do NOT recycle. I drag them back to Evanston. Shirley, it IS sickening.

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