National Parks Tell Disposable Bottles to Take a Hike

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – May 24, 2013 – Comment

Happy pre-Memorial Day weekend! With the unofficial start of summer upon us, have you planned out your vacation yet? Some of the best summer spots are the beautiful national parks we have all across the country. With more than 400 parks in every state of the union, there are many great options.

The National Park Service (NPS) has been taking care of our country’s parks since 1916. Last year, it rolled out a new initiative – its “Green Parks Plan” – to more sustainably manage the landmarks by reducing energy and water consumption, adopting greener transportation and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This past Earth Day, NPS announced that it diverted 28 percent of municipal solid waste since 2007, due in part to a growing number of parks stopping the sale of bottled water.

Americans throw away 38 billion water bottles a year – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – which could take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade in our landfills. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 85 percent of plastic water bottles end up in the trash, even though they are made of recyclable material.

One park in particular – the Grand Canyon – said that bottled water accounted for 20 percent of its overall waste stream, or more than 500 tons of waste, until it phased out bottles last year. Fourteen other parks have followed the Grand Canyon’s example with more considering the move thanks to efforts led by Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign, which supports organizations and individuals in switching from bottled water to tap.

Beyond just the environmental impact, bottled water also has a negative impact on your wallet. The cost per gallon of bottled water is even higher than the cost of gas (even on Memorial Day Weekend!). Over the course of a year, if you drank the recommended eight glasses of water a day from the tap, it would cost far less than a dollar. Compare that to $1,400 you would need to get your daily allowance through bottled water. Just think, if you followed the NPS’s lead and switched now, by next Memorial Day you would have enough savings to pay for the family’s next national park vacation!