american society, lists, world

Ten Reasons to Avoid Bottled Water

Bottled water has been getting a lot of bad press recently. And though I tend to pity those is unfortunate situations, in this case I say “pile on.” So here they are, ten good reasons to avoid (not purchase, not imbibe) bottled water.

All quotes on this list come from the July 2007 issue of Fast Company, in Charles Fishman’s “Message in a Bottle.” It’s a really great piece, and I would suggest reading the whole thing.

Also, this list is not meant to deny the usefulness of bottled water. When the safety of your water supply is an honest concern, I say you’ve got good reason to drink from sealed bottles. And when you can’t take another swig of the foul water you sometimes find in rural Nebraska, that’s okay too. But if can reasonably avoid the stuff, please do.

  1. Think of the kittens. Every time you break the seal on a bottle of water, God kills a kitten. Please, think of the kittens.
  2. But seriously… It’s not safer or healthier. I sometimes find it difficult to believe that anyone would believe this. Municipal water in the “developed” world is always free of anything we count on nutrition labels. It’s free of vitamins, it’s free of essential minerals, and its free of calories. There is nothing different whether it comes from Fiji, Maine, Los Angeles’s municipal water supply, or your own faucet.
  3. You’re paying too much. Look at it in these simple terms, “If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.”
  4. You’re creating more waste. Even though water bottles are made with easy to recycle PET, they are often sent to landfills. “Our recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year–more than $1 billion worth of plastic.”
  5. Even if you do recycle, you’re still wasting energy to dispose of the bottle. Recycling isn’t free. Citizens pay for it, and they pay because it is not industrially efficient. Cleaning, processing, and reselling the recovered materials is not a cheap process, and it requires energy both from people and from machines. Much more energy than it takes for you to wash your own water bottle.
  6. Transport is waste. Where you have no safe or readily available drinking water, this may be untrue. But for most people who would read this, you’re wasting excess energy to get water of roughly equivalent quality. You can’t ignore the fact that shipping water from Fiji, or anywhere else, uses more energy than using the water that (probably) naturally arrives and is used by your local water utility.
  7. You may well be getting tap water anyway. Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola (or Aquafina and Dasani), sell municipal water back to consumers. Those two alone account for 24% of the bottled water sold in the United States. Municipal water being sold back to you should be good reason to use that water yourself.
  8. It doesn’t even taste better. Though I wouldn’t deny that some people can truly distinguish a difference, “in blind taste tests, with waters at equal temperatures, presented in identical glasses, ordinary people can rarely distinguish between tap water, springwater, and luxury waters.”
  9. You can filter your own. Though you don’t have access to some of the more advanced (and more wasteful) filtering technologies used by the industry, there are many options for filtering your water at home. These will not put it in sealed bottles for you, but they can improve the taste of the water for less cost than a bottle, and with less waste.
  10. You can do better. Says Princeton’s Peter Singer, “we’re completely thoughtless about handing out $1 for this bottle of water, when there are virtually identical alternatives for free. It’s a level of affluence that we just take for granted. What could you do? Put that dollar in a jar on the counter instead, carry a water bottle, and at the end of the month, send all the money to Oxfam or CARE and help someone who has real needs. And you’re no worse off.”

I think Mr. Fishman deserves the last words on this topic:

Packing bottled water in lunch boxes, grabbing a half-liter from the fridge as we dash out the door, piling up half-finished bottles in the car cup holders–that happens because of a fundamental thoughtlessness. It’s only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can’t be bothered. And in a world in which 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, that conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don’t need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier.

That is the sense in which Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, and Singer, the Princeton philosopher, are both right. Mackey is right that buying bottled water is a choice, and Singer is right that given the impact it has, the easy substitutes, and the thoughtless spending involved, it’s fair to ask whether it’s always a good choice.

lists, personal

Tagged! or Eight Things about Me

Glendon, of The Flying Trilobite, was kind enough to invite me to play a little game of tag. Believing that we should play as many games as possible, I’m going to play. But I’ll follow the rules only by half. I am too lazy to ever follow rules exactly.

So, here are the rules, as I read them.

  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Before I begin, I have to call to mind a quote which seems terribly relevant:

We confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no large ones. — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

And now, eight things. About my childhood and the animals we had.

  1. I am a twin. A fraternal twin. My twin sister is named Julie. No, we do not look the same. Yes we are the same age. I am one minute older, at least according to all I’ve been told.
  2. In the seventh grade I bought a budgie. His name was Petey. He died this past year, and I have to admit to a degree of neglect in his care. We were never very close.
  3. When I was five, my guinea pig died. Because there were a number of other kids in the room when I discovered this fact, my mother told me that he was just sleeping. For better or worse, believing her made it harder when I learned the truth.
  4. In the third grade, I was (de)pan(t)sed (PS: what a strange word…). An older kid told me that he could make me feel like I was flying if I closed my eyes and stuck out my arms. I believed him. And found my pants at my ankles.
  5. We had a turtle once. A red-eared slider. Named Michaelangelo. After the Ninja Turtle, not the painter. We didn’t really care for him well so my parents gave him to some family friends who seemed to be more interested in him.
  6. I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for one year. While I was in first grade. I had glasses for as long as we were there. No one I knew then knows that I don’t wear glasses. No one in my hometown ever knew I wore them.
  7. We used to have a rather large bird. He was bigger than a budgie, but I’ve forgotten what the species was called. He was green. He used to like the Beach Boys’ song, “Barbara Anne,” or was we knew it “bob bobber an.” He’d pump his head up and down whenever we played it for him. So would we.
  8. We used to have goldfish. Every year, we’d go to the school’s fair and get new ones. And every year, there was one big fish. And he’d always seem to last longer than the new ones. We suspected he intimidated them, maybe even attacked them. When he died we didn’t get any more fish.

Five Frequently Forgotten Facts about Pirates

Everyday, pirates seem to be getting more and more popular. I think this is absurd. Here are the five most important things we should not forget about pirates.

  1. Johnny Depp is not a pirate, pirates are not Johnny Depp. All this nonsense about good looking pirates has to stop. Pirates were probably some of the ugliest people on earth. Let’s not forget that Vikings were essentially pirates, and no one thinks they’re terribly attractive. And in a related point…
  2. Pirates STINK. Think about it, not only are they probably ugly, but you can have little doubt that they smelled bad. Sure everyone smelled bad, but pirates wouldn’t even shower if they had the chance. They think they’re too good for something like that. Plus you can be certain that no pirate ship ever made had a hot shower on it, and that’s no fun for anyone.
  3. The Pirates make a terrible baseball team. Even if you live in Pittsburgh, you know this is true. Pirates play baseball about as well as Rockies or Royals, whatever those are. And simply put, being bad at baseball is not only un-American, it’s unattractive.
  4. A pirate would kill you for a bottle of rum, or vodka, or probably even Schnapps. And that’s just bad news. Who wants to sit down to unwind with a bottle of their favorite liquor and find themselves dead and without any booze. One or the other might be okay, but if you’re dead you’d probably really want a drink.
  5. Less awesome than a unicorn, less strong than a T. Rex. Let’s be honest. Pirates are just senseless. Unlike ninjas which are both awesome and deceptively fast to make up for their lack of strength, pirates have nothing. They are not awesome, they’re mostly just silly. And they’re not going to defeat anyone in any kind of battle. I mean the three musketeers have better fighting skills than pirates. And they’re French.

Five Reasons that Unicorns are Better than Penguins

UvPPenguins have been getting a lot of press lately. At least 300 movies about penguins to have come out in the last year, of which Surf’s Up is only the most recent. But do you know how many movies unicorns got? That’s right. Not a single movie about unicorns has been released recently, and this is simply not right. So here they are, the five best reasons reasons to protest this injustice. Five reasons that unicorns are better than penguins.

  1. Penguins cannot fly, unicorns can. This is especially important because, as you may be aware, penguins are birds. This makes the point all too clear, while penguins are busy being deficient birds, unicorns are busy being awesome.
  2. Penguins waddle, unicorns run faster than anything else on the planet. Not only can unicorns totally fly way better than penguin, they also run way way faster. Like, incredibly. Unicorns are so fast that they make penguins look like rocks, stupid slow ugly rocks.
  3. Unicorns have a horn, penguins have flippers. Let’s say that a bar fight broke out, who would you rather have on your side, a unicorn or a penguin? That’s what I though. Not only can a unicorn poke the other guy in the eye, but then you can get a ride from him which would definitely be really cool and awesome and fast.
  4. Penguins lay eggs, unicorns just are. Penguin babies are little wimps. They come in eggs that their parents have to take care of and stuff. Even the daddy penguins. Lame. Unicorns just happen, wherever and whenever they want. If a unicorn wanted to, he could make a clone of himself and suddenly appear behind you. Pretty cool, huh?
  5. Unicorns have magic powers, penguins do not. Does anything more really need to be said?