Every time I sit in Frost Cafe, I see student after student go up to the counter and buy a plastic water bottle. They toss them in their backpacks and drink them throughout the day. When they’re done, they throw them in the recycling if it’s convenient or just toss them in the trashcan if it’s nearby.
This is me asking you, all of you who are still using plastic non-reusable water bottles, to stop.
You probably know, to some degree, that bottled water takes a toll on the environment. Most assume the environmental damage comes from not recycling. The problem, however, starts far before that point. Every step- from the creation of the plastic to getting the bottle to Frost, is part of the problem.
The plastic, which is usually polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is created with petroleum and natural gas. According to an estimate by the Pacific Institute, an environmental and water think tank, 17 million barrels of oil, a fossil fuel, are used yearly to create the PET for water bottles. Burning those 17 million barrels leads to the annual emission of an estimated 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is one of the leading contributors to climate change. During manufacturing, a considerable amount of water is used, so that for every single bottle sold, three times as much water was used to create it. Finally, the finished good is loaded onto a truck, freight train, ship or airplane. By the time one bottle of water gets to its final destination, the Pacific Institute estimates that the amount of oil used could fill a third of that bottle.
And then, you get your bottle of water. You bring it to class, to the gym, to your dorm. When you’re finally done drinking, there’s a good chance that it’s going straight into the trashcan. The Container Recycling Institute estimates that almost 80 percent of all plastic water bottles don’t even get recycled.
But maybe, instead of immediately disposing of your bottle after a single day, you’re the type to reuse it, refilling the same water bottle until you lose it or buy another. Doing this could potentially pose a serious health risk. Some studies have shown that reusing water bottles that are made out of PET can lead to the breakdown of DEHA, a potential carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), an endocrine disruptor.
Since the environmental and health issues all point to the problems of bottled water, why else could you still be using them?
“Bottled water tastes better than tap water!”
There’s a good chance it doesn’t. A number of taste tests have concluded that people either cannot tell the difference between tap and bottled, or they even prefer the taste of tap water. And if you still don’t think Amherst’s tap water is great, there are many reusable water bottles that come with a personal water filter inside of them.
“I only buy bottled water with electrolytes. There aren’t electrolytes in tap!”
Electrolytes are electrically-charged minerals found in your body, and are often lost by sweating. After a heavy workout, electrolytes are often necessary in order to replenish your body. Instead of going with sports drinks or enriched bottled water, there are many other ways to get back those lost ions.
The most common electrolytes, according to MedLine Plus, are magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride and phosphorus. Instead of Gatorade, you can go with bananas, peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes, beans, raisins and yogurt — all of which, by the way, can be found in Val. And if you still need something to drink, there are plenty of recipes online for a homemade electrolyte drink — and none of these options require buying bottled water.
“Reusable water bottles are too expensive!”
During my first-year orientation, Amherst gave me two or three reusable water bottles. If you (like me) have lost those in this time, there’s great news! You can get a reusable one, such as a Nalgene or a Polar Bottle, for under $10. And if each disposable water bottle you buy costs $2, this investment pays off in less than a week.
“Okay, fine, I’ll use a reusable water bottle. But which one should I buy?”
There are so many reasons to love reusable bottles, and the vast selection is one of them. There are glass and stainless steel ones, ones with personal filters, insulated ones and ones with easy-to-use spouts. You can buy them at a wide variety of places, from grocery and convenience stores, to sporting goods shops, to bookstores, to mass retailers.
So please, if you’re one of the people left on campus who still lugs around a Smartwater, it’s time to recycle and move on.