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The Grassroots Address

October 21, 2011

A weekly column about sustainability and intentional living

Editor’s Note: This is a weekly column by a member of the MC Garden Club. The purpose of the column is to inform about environmental issues and ways to live in a sustainable manner.

During the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, disposable water bottles saved lives. Thousands of people fleeing from the encroaching flood relied on bottled water alone for hydration. Without this commodity, the effects of the disaster would surely have been far worse. Problems arise, however, when disposable water bottles shift from emergency use to everyday use.

Most obviously, mountains of waste stem from the frequent use of disposable bottles. Both Penn Sate and the Ocean Conservancy report that plastic bottles take 450 years to decompose. This means that landfills will overflow faster than officials can build little-league baseball fields to cover them up.

Regrettably, this problem cannot only be solved with recycling; it has problems of its own. When it comes down to it, recycling is not efficient.

Small recycling facilities, like the one in Monmouth, can only process certain compounds and have to trash the rest. Of the plastic recycled, much of it goes into secondary products and does not reduce use of virgin materials.

A great number of bottles, as anyone can tell who walks the streets of Monmouth, do not even make it to the trash or recycling bin though.

Instead, they end up in ditches, doorways, sewers, and dare I say it, baby polar bears’ mouths. With all sincerity, though, liter is not only a problem of aesthetics. It impedes ecosystems causing rippling effects that touch all life forms in one.

Entirely separate problems come from the water’s original location. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “Ice Mountain” where snows of perfection magically fill the bottles. Instead, the water is pumped from the tap of small communities around the country.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle continue pumping through local droughts and water shortages. This often amounts to millions of people drinking bottled water while select communities across the country have to ration their water use.

While recycling still remains a significantly better option than land filling or littering, the best option lies with reusable water bottles. These bottles do not stack up in landfills or clutter roadside ditches and unlike many disposable bottles, don’t leech chemicals into their contents (Nalgene now makes all BPA-Free bottles). All it takes is a bottle, a water source, and a squirt of soap every few days.

If the Monmouth tap water doesn’t suit the pallet, Brita filters work miraculously .

Sure, plastic water bottles (or any other sort of disposable drinking containers) are amazingly convenient. They fit perfectly into hectic mornings, daily workouts, and campus events.

But since we are not facing a disaster such as Katrina, the question should be asked: what are we willing to pay for convenience?

Buying and using a reusable water bottle is a small change but an easy one and an important one in working towards environmental consciousness.

Out of sight, out of mind- A common human tendency.

Out of sight, in mind- That’s just called apathy.

Make a change.

William J. Terrill
Contributing Writer

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