On a visit to my local supermarket recently, I spotted an employee stacking cases of disposable plastic water bottles in a “tower” that appeared to be about six feet wide by six feet high. I won’t name the brand – but I can tell you these bottles had been shipped to my local market from far overseas.
It got me thinking once again that our increasing consumption of disposable plastic bottles is simply not a sustainable proposition in terms of impact on the environment (to say nothing of the impact on the family budget).
As I imagined the carbon footprint trail of this tower of plastic bottles, I saw the bottle manufacturing plant in my mind’s eye (with the consumption of energy and petroleum products required to make the bottles), the bottling plant itself, the energy required by a container ship coming halfway around the globe, and the energy expended in trucking the bottles to my market.
What’s more, I knew that the tower of bottles in my market was just one of hundreds of thousands of similar displays across the country.
In 2012, Americans will be purchasing and then throwing away (without recycling) billions of disposable plastic bottles of water. An average of 38 billion water bottles per year – an astounding 85 percent of all plastic water bottles consumed in the U.S. – end up in the trash each year, rather than being recycled.
The carbon footprint of bottled water and the impact on landfills across the country is reason enough to make a lifestyle shift, but there are economic benefits, as well. Tap water is typically available from the faucet for about a penny a gallon as a national average. Single-serving bottled water often weighs in at more than $4 per gallon.
To me – a shift towards drinking tap water from refillable bottles whenever possible is the only sustainable and smart solution.