“Go Green”: Reduce Your Plastic Water Bottle Usage

July 13th, 2012

Within the past few decades, our society has become much more environmentally conscious. Like many others, you may be trying to “go green” by practicing environmentally responsible behavior in the hope of minimizing impact on the environment. While it is overwhelming to think about changing your lifestyle altogether to “go green”, consider starting with one small change that will reduce waste. A good place to start, for example, is reducing plastic water bottle usage.

In 2011 National Geographic reported that Americans purchase approximately 29 billion plastic bottles of water every year. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO) bottled water consumption doubled from 1997 to 2007 and it is likely that it will continue to increase. The USGAO also reported that in 2006, 76.4 percent of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic water bottles, which are the most common water bottles, were discarded. This equates to nearly one million tons of PET plastic water bottles discarded every year.

The PET plastic is essentially an inert material and is not known to leach chemicals. Unfortunately, however, the USGAO reports that the plastic water bottles will take thousands of years to decompose in a landfill. The slow decomposition rate occurs because the water bottles are compacted before they are deposited in a landfill which prevents them from being exposed to sunlight and the atmosphere. These elements are essential for decomposition.

In addition to contributing to landfills, plastic water bottles impact the environment in other ways as well.  Any discarded plastic water bottles that do not make it to the landfill become litter both on land and in the water. This can possibly disrupt wildlife and is an eyesore as well. Furthermore, researchers at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California evaluated the energy needed to manufacture, process, transport, and chill the plastic water bottles. They discovered that the energy cost of producing bottled water can be up to 2000 times the energy cost of producing tap water. The manufacturing process also requires extensive amounts of crude oil which is a natural resource. According to a National Geographic article, 17 million barrels of crude oil are used annually to produce the plastic material. The author of the article mentioned that the amount of crude oil needed to produce one water bottle would fill the bottle approximately one-quarter full.

If you would like to start to “go green” by reducing your plastic water bottle usage, there are several options available to you. If you are purchasing bottled water because you do not like the taste or quality of your tap or well water, consider purchasing a water filter that removes contaminants, such as chlorine, from the water. This will allow you to drink from a re-usable glass instead. Many people also prefer plastic water bottles for the convenience of being able to carry their water with them to run errands, go to work, or other purposes. If you would still like the convenience of a water bottle consider using a re-usable water bottle. Some water bottles are now available that have filtering capabilities as well so you can filter water at any location.

Remember, it is estimated that a person will consume about 30 gallons of bottled water per year which is more than 200 16-ounce water bottles. Try to “go green” today by reducing your plastic water bottle usage and you will contribute less to landfills, litter, increased energy costs, and natural resources consumption as well.

 


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