Last Sunday, I ran (well, jogged) the Great North Run. Now, whilst this wasn't top of my list of thoughts at the time, one thing the Ethically Challenged should be worrying about is the amount of plastic bottled mineral water used.
We all know there are ethical concerns about mineral water, regardless of its packaging.
Whilst it may be worse to drink bottled water than tap water, it's not as bad as drinks such cola and alcohol. Low-Tech magazine makes an interesitng point when it reminds us of the vast amounts of energy and water used in the production of beer, for example. You can argue this one back and forth forever - and some readers of Low-Tech have done just that, if you care to read their comments. However, the unanimous view is that plastic bottles are no good.
So, if you must use them, what's the greenest way to drink your Evian? Following the environmentalist mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle what options are there?
- Reduce: Where possible, drink tap water instead. No plastic bottle needed. Plan ahead, and take a drink out with you. If you are going to buy bottled water, then think about how much you will need. Could buying a bigger bottle now mean you don’t need to buy a second bottle later/tomorrow?
There are some really cool initiatives around reducing the use of bottles. I love this idea from Paris - trust the French to have a sparkling water fountain in a park! Brilliant. This is quite a radical stance from Italy : tourists in the Italian national park of Cinque Terre have been banned from taking bottles in with them. Instead they pay 1 Euro to buy a reusable metal bottle that can be filled in the local fountains. Rather depressingly, 2 million bottles are left behind every year. Many of them fall down the cliffs and into the sea. Seriously, what is wrong with people? Can you not take your rubbish home with you? (sorry, but I hate people who litter.)
Never one to miss an opportunity to be smug,- sorry, I mean do her bit - Gisele Bundchen is promoting a re-usable bottle that was handed out at the Vancouver
- Reuse: So, in a desperate situation, where you were on the verge of dehydration, whilst simultaneously choking, and miles away from the nearest tap, you have cracked and bought a bottled drink. While the guilt eats away at you and your friends gasp in shock, you swear that this bottle will last you The Rest of Your Life (God knows, you will be dead long before it biodegrades) Good? Yes, but just make sure you wash it with warm water and maybe don’t use for the rest of your life.
- Recycle: There is a lot of debate about the level of energy used to recycle plastic. Once recycled, there's not much of a demand for the resulting product, and much of it ends up being shipped off to China in mass fossil fuel burning ships. So, whilst I would never knock recycling, it looks like Reduce and Reuse are the key to limit environmental impact when it comes to drinks bottles.
But this still does not get away from the fact that there will always be situations where you need to buy bottled drinks. When it came to the Great North Run, I know I wouldn't have been able to manage the run without water. Had I tried to carry all my supplies with me in a recycled low carbon vegan reusable bottle, I may have collapsed under its weight before mile 5.
So if you really need to buy bottles, what else can you do with them?
Option 1: (perhaps not for you, average consumer, as you need a lot)
Where there is a product, there is a fashion designer creating. And actually, this waistcoat is quite cool. Not only that, but there are instructions on how to make it yourself. Anyone willing to have a go?
Create a vase. I gave this one a go myself. I will leave it for you to decide if my creative flair is better than Renata's. You may want to check the website for a slightly better version of this.
Make toys for kids. Most of the options when you do detailed research (OK, google) into what you can do with bottles centre around toys for kids. Not really sure how many kids would want to play with a bottle over the x-box, but there are some cute ideas.
However, the best thing you can do is to reduce the use of them. Much like carrier bags, a lot of it is going to come down to remembering to take a reusable bottle out with you. It's only a small change, but it takes a lot of effort to remember. Perhaps I will keep mine with my many 'bag for life' bags. This way, I can trip over them both as I leave the house, then get to my destination and scream with frustration as I realise I forgot them both! Again! Must must try harder with this!