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August 3, 2010

Do One Green Thing: Nix Bottled Water

BY: wrace

This is the second in a series of posts about how to green your life, week by week.

This week, thanks to Mindy Pennybacker’s Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth through Simple, Everyday Choices , I decided to confront my bottled water addiction. Like most addicts, I tell myself that I’m not addicted. Sure, I’ll indulge in bottled water every now and then, but what’s the harm in that, right?

Wrong! If one in 20 Americans stopped buying disposable water bottles, we would eliminate 30 million pounds of plastic waste a year. When Do One Green Thing hit me with this fact, it blew me away. When did it become socially acceptable to eject 30 million pounds of non-biodegradable waste onto the planet? Sure, some of the plastic is recycled, but an estimated 80 percent is placed in landfills, and finds its way to our local waterways and oceans.

Mindy went on to explain how much energy goes into producing a bottle of water. If every American kicked the bottled water habit, we’d save 17 million gallons of oil a year from making the bottle plastic, alone! Add in the energy used to produce and ship bottled water, and the savings would add up to 54 million barrels of oil a year.

To put that in perspective, BP’s ruptured well has spilled almost five million barrels into the Gulf; the Exxon Valdez spilled 275,000 barrels. A simple lifestyle step—drinking tap, not bottled, water—can stop our annual waste of at least five times more oil than the worst U.S. environmental disaster has spilled.

Chapter one goes on to explain why choosing tap water will also be better for our health, aquatic ecosystems, and social justice. It provides simple steps for finding out what’s in your tap water and how to filter it, if necessary. There are also Choose It/Lose It charts of plastics that may leach toxic chemicals, and a shopping list of safest reusable bottles.

After reading this, I invested in a few reusable bottles for my beverages of choice. Let me tell you, I am a fan for three reasons:

1. Health – Over the week I stopped drinking water and soda out of plastic-based containers. By using my reusable stainless steel containers, I always had water on hand and actually started drinking more water than usual. I easily get my 8-10 cups a day and avoid the harmful Bisphenol A (BPA) chemical found in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. The U.S. National Toxicology Center has stated that BPA may interfere with normal human brain and hormonal development.

2. Money – I saved between $20 and $30 in a week by not purchasing water or soda all week. That means over the year I can expect to have an extra grand or more in my pocket.

3. Conscience – My conscience is clean and clear. Knowing that I am not contributing to the national accumulation of waste is liberating.

Last week was an eye opening experience, and I am excited to continue my journey through this book and see where it takes me. Up next is fresh produce: why and how to easily choose what’s best for you and the planet, right now.  In the meantime, check out Do One Green Thing at your local bookstore or online.

If you’ve got any green living questions, Mindy invites you to click on “Ask Mindy” on her home page at,, and she’ll get back to you!

Will Race is Oceana’s Pacific Administrative Assistant.