Sunday, July 12, 2009

Town Bans Bottled Water - Tips for Surviving Bottle Free

Beautiful sunny morning. Nice hawk over head.

So a remote Australian town, the first in the world to take this action, had the chutzpa to ban bottled water. That's right; no more plastic water bottles for sale in that town. It wasn't even a close vote either with only one nay for reasons of questioning all plastic bottles.

So what the heck is the town going to do? What would any of us do without bottled water?

I was in a local radio station getting ready to go on the air and the host and I were talking about the ban. She conceded to the waste bottled water produces and understands the importance of reusable containers (she does use a Klean Kanteen but only in situations where she knows she won't lose it, other wise she reaches for the bottled water - no comment). In the office was a wall stacked with cases of bottled water which she referred to as a necessity for guests and hygiene. After all, "What would we do without bottled water? There is no way we could offer people water in this setting without them."

Really? I've been so struck by that comment ever since. All I can think of is, what did we do 50 years ago? We didn't have bottled water back then. So what did folks do?

Maybe, back then, a radio station had some soda (in reusable glass bottles). Maybe they had their own mugs or tea cups and even, hm, a glass that they filled from the tap. Maybe that's why we have a morning and afternoon "coffee" break to get fluids because folks didn't carry around water bottles back then. That must mean humanity has survived all this time, up until the last 30 years, without bottled water. Gosh, how did they do it? And do we even need to drink so much water in the first place? (Humans have seemed to survive this long without 8 glasses per day)

Now I'm not talking in rural areas where "Don't drink the water" still applies. I'm talking about communities that have tap water that's been tested for safety, the same tap water that fills a lot of the bottled water too. I think there is sometimes a snobbishness against our own tap water; that ordinary people are left to drink that water, while others can afford to buy it bottled. But the irony is that, because of no regulation or supervision, you really don't know what is in the bottled water because up until now they haven't had to be tested like municipal water supplies. The FDA has recently added some regulation so by December 2009, "bottle companies must eliminate E.coli in their products". So does that mean there can be E.coli in bottled water now?

So back to the water dilemma that this radio station faces, and perhaps other work places face where guests might come and go. What is a company to do? What did they do 50 years ago? Can we go back to the reusable mug era? Could a work place have an array of mugs for clients to fill from the...tap? And someone would be designated to clean out the mugs? Would hygiene freaks and germ phobics freak out? What is the liability for all this? (now that's pathetic) Does a work place only offer something hot that has been boiled? (and only because of our litigious society)

So in the event that you, your work place, town or city is exploring banning water bottles yourself, here are some tips to deal with a bottled water ban:

1 - Encourage everyone to use reusable water bottles

2 - A work place or businesses can sell reusable water bottles

3- Offer clean mugs and glasses so people can use tap water.

4 - Take turns cleaning out the mugs/glasses or use a dishwasher.

5 - Offer safe filtered water from either counter top filters or attached faucet filters.

6 - Offer a water bubbler (in glass not polycarbonate) and if all else fails, small compostable cups or cups from recycled paper

7 - Offer hot coffee or tea as an alternative to water.

8 - Larger companies and municipalities need to have public water fountains, again.

See, it's not so hard. We humans just hate change, and hate being told what to do, and hate maybe even a little perceived inconvenience. The ban on bottled water was about sustainability; how our current lifestyle of waste and the use of plastic and petroleum is not good for any of us or the environment in the long run. The ban was about reducing this silly, unnecessary "habit" of bottled water (and all the outrageous stats that go with it) and getting back to basics.

This inconvenience of a bottle ban far out ways the coming inconvenience if we don't think about being more sustainable. Wasn't there a movie about that?

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