Monday, June 27, 2011

Massachusetts town undoes revolutionary bottled water ban ~ perhaps some historial metaphors are appropriate?

Massachusetts Town Undoes Revolutionary Bottled Water Ban

by Timothy Hurst
One year after making international headlines as the first town in the United States—and possibly the world—to ban the sale of bottled water, voters at the annual Town Meeting in Concord, Massachusetts this week rejected the water bottle ban, passing instead a proposal educating Concord citizens about the environmental impacts of water bottles.
The initial ban, passed in April 2010, was set to go into effect on January 1, 2011, but the state attorney general's office said it was written as a bylaw that could not be enforced. The measure voted on this week would have addressed that specific problem, but it would not have protected the town against probable lawsuits from industry groups.
"The cost of defending ourselves against such a lawsuit could be steep," Jeff Wieand, chairman of the Concord Board of Selectmen, told the Boston Globe. "It's possible we could get a law firm to defend us pro bono, but if that didn't happen it would be a significant expense for the town."
Known as the home of environmentalist Henry David Thoreau, it seemed fitting last spring when citizens of Concord approved the anti-establishment water bottle ban. But Concord is also known for being host to the first battle of the American Revolution. And ultimately it was not only the cost of likely litigation that won out over environmentalism, it was also the cause of liberty, or so said the bill's opponents.
Whichever historical metaphor one applies to this story, it is safe to say that the protagonists in neither would be very impressed with the (small d) democratic tendencies in Concord, population 17,000, as evidenced by voter turnout at Town Meeting. A total of 537 residents voted on the measure at the Town Meeting; 272 opposed the ban and 265 supported it.
But in all fairness to Concordians, the bill came up for consideration late in the evening, around 11 p.m., after many residents had already gone home, according to Jean Hill, who filed the petition to ban the water bottles. Hill says the battle she's fighting for the environment is not over yet.
“I’m coming back next year. I’m 83 and I’m tough. I don’t give up,” said Hill.
Maybe those historical metaphors are appropriate after all.
Reprinted with permission from Ecopolitology

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grumpy Old Man: Water, Water everywhere…and its bottled!

I love this Grumpy Old Man post – this issue drives me nuts! – Lisa
I had an experience in a restaurant last week when the bill arrived for the meal and included $20 for two bottles of still water!
"how much??"
This is becoming something of a habit with restaurants and no doubt quite a profitable one.
It got me thinking that we actually can pay more for water than petrol! How strange is this? I am sure most of us would be more than satisfied with water from the tap. It is after all chlorinated and has helped reduce the instances of tooth decay in the community very significantly over the years since its introduction.
The infrastructure for delivery of tap water is well and truly in place, whereas the production/distribution of bottled water is most definitely using finite resources … typically PET bottles which can be a derivative of fossil fuel.
The transportation costs are high, the labelling and closures are energy-sapping and of course the cost of displaying in the various retail outlets incurs electricity on-costs etc. Also not forgetting the proper disposal of the empty bottles … more energy usage to collect and regrade into usable pellets for use in making recycled items such as park benches. An attempt to balance the growing usage?
So why are we consuming copious quantities of bottled water? In the restaurant case referred to above, the water was in fact from Italy for heaven’s sake! Add the transportation costs for that and maybe it helps explain the exhorbitant restaurant price?
Many consumers would not be aware that Australia’s most popular water drink is supplied by the company who own possibly the largest selling carbonated beverage in the country … Coke.
So why don’t we grasp reality and simply make sure we drink tap water rather than bottled and/or flavoured water?
I would welcome feedback on this, as it has me very grumpy and confused as to why we have this amazing scenario, which in many cases costs a packet across all measures … environmental and our hip pockets.
Till the next time

Thursday, June 23, 2011

a hilarious website and testament to 'news-speak': "Save the planet by consuming plastic"

 This is really hilarious: it is a website put up by the International Bottled Water Association to promote bottled water, going so far as to say that the industry is environmentally friendly. 

The video "every bottle counts" shows just how long a bow is being drawn here: the "green hero" drinks bottled water for its convenience, but then explains that she is willing to cart around a bag full of empties so she can recycle them at home. Smart thinking, right? At the end of her day she is carrying 6 little bottles in a trash bag, instead of her one, stylish, refillable bottle.

The website also boasts that 30% of bottles are recycled, but forgets to mention that this means 70% of bottles are in landfills. Then there are the other numbers - like the 1.3 billion pounds (that 1300000000 pounds) of plastic resin SAVED since 2001 by making the plastic water bottles lighter. what does that really mean? That the amount of resin used was much, much more than that - try at least 3 times as much - virtually all of it pointless except for profit, and 70% of it now in landfills or the ocean.

This is a real testament to 'news-speak'. Save the planet by consuming plastic? One more step along this path and we could see someone suggesting that we sequester carbon by turning it into plastic and burying it in landfills. Maybe the bottled water industry could get some carbon credits for that?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

College students push to restrict bottled water

College students push to restrict bottled water

Bottled water: It’s a vending machine’s healthy alternative to sugary soda, a convenient way to hydrate on the go and, lately, a total faux pas on many college campuses.
Some environmentally gung-ho students are not only glaring at those who choose to chug from disposable bottles — rather than earthy-friendly reusable containers — they are also pushing for restrictions on bottled water sales on campus.
At the University of Maryland College Park, students have persuaded the undergraduate and graduate student governments to stop buying bottled water for their meetings and events. Now they serve large pitchers of tap water.
Washington University in St. Louis has adopted an all-out ban in the hope of alleviating the waste going into landfills. The president of University of Mary Washington in Virginia forbade spending school funds on bottled water. Goucher College in Baltimore removed bottled water from its dining halls and campus eateries, but not its bookstore and vending machines.
Proposed restrictions often are met with opposition and caution. Some administrators say they want to avoid discouraging water consumption, especially when students can become dehydrated while playing intramural sports (or drinking games). And there’s the ongoing fight against the Freshman 15: If a student is standing at a vending machine, a bottle of water is usually the least-fattening option.
“It’s definitely a complex issue,” said Aynsley Toews, coordinator of the U-Md. Office of Sustainability and a member of a task force looking at other possible restrictions. Already the group has heard concerns about the university losing money from bottled water sales and not keeping its students properly hydrated. “Then there’s flavored water, there’s vitamin water. What do you do with those?”
Similar concerns are echoed by the industry. “You are telling people not to drink water? Holy mackerel,” said Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. “It’s odd that colleges would look to ban a healthy, legal product.”
Even some environmentalists worry bans could alienate students who are just starting to warm to eco-friendly ideas such as running fewer loads of laundry. When DePauw University in Indiana contemplated a bottle ban in 2010, an opposition group popped up on Facebook, where one student wrote, “guess the next logical thing is to make meatless mondays official. this is ridiculous.”
Americans purchased 8.45 billion gallons of bottled water in 2009. Environmentalists say resources are wasted on producing and transporting bottles of water when most people could receive the same product — for far less money — from their kitchen faucet. Each year about 50 billion water bottles end up in landfills, according to estimates.
Rallying against bottled water has become a cause for college environmental groups in the past few years, especially with the popularity of “Tapped,” a documentary about the bottled water industry.
While bans remain controversial, many colleges are instead trying to make it easier for students to pick refillable bottles over throwaway ones. They are also educating students about recycling and how their several-bottles-a-day habit quickly piles up in a landfill.
Often that means building a giant sculpture made up of thrown-away water bottles. At Maryland, a group of students spent two hours pulling bottles out of trash cans to construct its five-foot-tall plastic statue of a water bottle. At Penn State University, students opted to spell out the word “NO” in collected bottles. (Lauria and water bottle proponents, meanwhile, note that their bottles are the single most recycled item in curbside programs.)
Many schools have also installed “refilling stations” that filter tap water and are easier to use than traditional water fountains. The University of the District of Columbia is in the process of installing “hydration stations” in all of its buildings, while American University is upgrading 100 water fountains to include a bottle-friendly faucet.
American also gives each incoming student a free, reusable water bottle at orientation, and a few times a year the sustainability director hosts a blind-taste test of an array of water options — including tap, filtered and several bottled varieties. The goal is not to limit the number of options students have, but to make reusable bottles the hippest choice, said Chris O’Brien, American’s director of sustainability.
“It’s cool to have a refillable water bottle,” he said. “It’s not cool to be seen with a product that produces greenhouse gases and is not sustainable.”