Bottled water is detrimental to the environment.
Yes, the argument has been heard a thousand times. Maybe a decade or two ago we fell for the marketing ploy that is bottled water, but not so much today. We’ve made disposable bottles recyclable, and many of us own personal water bottles in a rainbow of colors. We’re doing better.
Even environmentally friendly bottled water consumes energy and resources, though, and we can cut down our consumption further by using public resources – i.e. public water fountains.
Remember the days from elementary school, when drinking from the water fountain next to the playground was normal? As adults, we worry more about what goes into our bodies and what is convenient. When we try to be environmentally conscious, we make judgement calls based on what’s important to us.
“I can’t give up my twenty-minute shower, so I’ll turn off lights and recycle.”
We do what we can so the question becomes, “Is it manageable to cut out disposable water bottles if we make better use of public water fountains?”
First, let’s end the myth that bottled water is better or ‘purer’ than tap water.
The Environmental Protection Agency oversees and consistently monitors what comes out of our sinks and fountains. Yes, there are chemicals in there to keep the water clean, but they are safe for consumption – over 40 years of experience since the Safe Drinking Water Act says so.
Bottled water is the territory of the Food and Drug Administration. While they’re still held to standards similar to those of the EPA, individual companies do water quality tests and treatments. There is something to all the hype – more expensive treatments and different sources can make bottled water taste better to some people.
However, bottled water is a consumer product – that means consumers are responsible for reading labels and finding out where their water actually comes from. A quick jaunt down to the McCarthy Snack Bar to read all the regular bottled water labels like a creeper can be informative. Dasani, for example, includes magnesium and salt “for taste.”
Naysayers can point to incidents like the Flint water crisis as evidence of why it’s still safer to drink bottled water. Well, Flint involves a host of human and moral dilemmas but, realistically, public water is generally safe to drink.
So do we have enough public water fountains to help us kick the bottled water habit?
As an FSU student in school – a traditional place to find water fountains – there are probably enough. Maybe some have a broken handle or are likely to shoot water in your face if you don’t ease it on, but most of them work.
Beyond the borders of FSU, public water fountains may not be so numerous. It’s classic office culture to hang out by the water cooler.
Isn’t it better, then, to form good habits as students when water fountains are more accessible? College is only four years, but the things we learn to care about follow us to the real world.
Public spaces like parks used to come with working water fountains, and whether they do now or in the future depends on what people care about. We can care about adding more public water fountains to our towns the same way we care about improving public transportation – both are part of the same set of issues.
If we are aren’t actively aware, public water fountains may go the same way as public telephones. We have a smartphone industry now that uses energy and resources on a new model every few months to a year. So let’s make an environmental judgement call. Which do we love more – our bottled water or our smartphones?
Ditch the Dasani, watch out for your public water fountains and keep the smartphone.