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updated 8/3/2007 9:51:06 AM ET 2007-08-03T13:51:06
COMMENTARY

Why is anyone who cares about the environment drinking bottled water? Yesterday, I went out for lunch at a trendy Philadelphia spot. The city has a very hip and environmentally conscious restaurant scene.

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Just as is true in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, the city’s menus boast that there are no genetically engineered grains or vegetables. Most things being served are grown relatively locally and the chickens that appear on plates have ranged freely and happily before being turned into dinner.

One thing you quickly notice in fancy-pants establishments such as this is that despite all the attention to the political correctness of the food, everyone drinks bottled water. Philly bistros are awash in fizzy water from San Gimignano in Italy, still waters from French springs, mountain water from Norway and water that is supposedly captured from the waterfalls of Fiji.

So at this fashionable eatery, I asked for tap water. Eyeballs rolled, but I was right in my request. Why? Because it’s time for those of us who care about the environment and are concerned about global warming to stop buying and drinking bottled water.

Droplets of truth
Not too long ago, critics of Al Gore were prattling on about how his daughter had served Chilean sea bass — a rare fish — at her wedding reception and that Gore had eaten it. Well, protecting the fish may be a nice thing to do, but it does not make a difference to the problem of global warning and the even bigger problem of handling the enormous amount of waste humanity is dumping into leaky landfills. If you want to head out on hypocrisy patrol among the environmentally concerned, don’t worry about what they are eating or whether they fly, drive or walk from place to place. Just ask them, “What are you drinking?”

Here are a few facts about bottled water:

  • The containers are made of plastic or glass. When full, both become very heavy. It costs a fortune in oil to ship heavy bottles around the country, much less around the world.
  • Close to 2 million tons of plastic was used to make bottles for water last year. That manufacturing involves an enormous about of petroleum, since it is a key ingredient in plastic. In the U.S. alone, 30 million bottles a day, billions of bottles a year get tossed out. Recycling them costs another small fortune in gasoline to haul them to plants.
  • Bottled water is being promoted all over the world by a host of companies such as PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Co., Nestle and Cadbury Schweppes. These companies, plus the boutique outfits such as Evian and S. Pellegrino, are staking their future on getting you to drink water from bottles since it is getting harder and harder to persuade you to drink soda and other sugared water from their cans — and it’s working.
  • According to Beverage Marketing Corp., a provider of beverage-related data, consumption of bottled water has been growing by a gallon a year per capita in the U.S., and consumption has doubled in the past decade. Americans now drink more water from bottles overall than any other nation. However, we are only tenth among nations of the world in drinking bottled water per capita, trailing Italy, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Then there's the cost. Why pay dollars per gallon for bottled water packaged with a fancy name and aesthetically impressive label when you can get pure and healthy New York City, Seattle, Boston, Geneva or Singapore tap water for pennies without adding to environmental problems?

In other words, if you want to do something to really reduce global warming and cut down the earth’s pollution burden, stop buying bottled water. The containers mean oil in the shipping, oil in the refrigerating and oil in the recycling, not to mention the oil that’s also needed in the manufacturing of plastic bottles. That’s a whole lot of oil to quench your thirst in a most unethical way.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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