After hearing Chris Jordan speak a few years ago in support of Seattle’s plastic bag ban, my awareness about the problems of plastic grew by leaps and bounds. Chris uses digital images to help us understand what large numbers of things look like so that we can wrap our brains around the impact that we are having on the environment. Large numbers are really difficult to imagine. Seeing his pictures really drove home the importance of “reduce” in “reduce-reuse-recycle.”
After spending a few days as Yosemite this summer, surrounded by throngs of tourists gawking at nature, the problem of plastic was elevated in my mind again. There were thousands of people visiting Yosemite while I was there, and without fail, they blithely carried an (effing!) plastic bottle around with them as they hiked through the (formerly) pristine wilderness. Plastic bottles that were sold to them by Yosemite National Park. Sigh.
So, what’s the problem with plastic bottles? Can’t they be reused and then recycled? Yes, they can. But carrying water around in plastic isn’t the best for your health (read here for more info on that) and it’s certainly not great for the planet’s health. Every disposable item that we purchase has to be manufactured, right? Manufacturing is incredibly resource-intensive. For a plastic bottle, here are the costs (source here):
- Manufacturing one plastic water bottle requires 3-5 liters of water.
- Plastic is made from petroleum. Seventeen million barrels of oil are dedicated to making plastic bottles each year.
- Additional oil is used to transport the bottles to retailers.
- The manufacturing of plastic water bottles accounts for 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
- Only 20% of plastic water bottles in the U.S. are recycled. 80% end up in the landfill or the oceans.
Depressing, right? And yet those plastic water bottles are ubiquitous! They are cheap, convenient, and frankly, most people don’t even think about it. So here’s your nudge to think about it!
In the U.S., we use 1, 500 water bottles per second. You heard me. One thousand five hundred plastic waters bottles per second. Every day. All year. Doesn’t that number just blow you away? That number adds up to 130 million plastic water bottles per day. Just in the U.S.
Do you want to be part of that waste? I don’t think you do. So I challenge you to stop using plastic water bottles. Just stop. Drink your tap water. Drink from drinking fountains. Bring a reusable water bottle with you. Ask for a paper cup. You will help the planet. Your may improve your health. You will definitely save money (the average American shells out $588 per year on bottled water).
What do you do if you can’t do any of the above? Be like my husband and have a beer. On tap, of course!