You know those fashion Dos and Don'ts? Every fashion editor worth her salt should bluepencil the disposable bottle of water, that basic summer accessory, with a big 'X.' It's so outmoded, Darling! Not that we're not guilty of packing disposables ourselves, sometimes (the U.S. is the world's leading consumer of bottled water), but we know we've got to stop. For one thing, manufacturing the 29 billion plastic water bottles consumed by the U.S. market every year consumes 17 million barrels of oil; and, when the energy costs of transportation, pumping and processing the water are added in, the total climbs to 50 million barrels a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
Oh, and EPI also points out that producing a #1 PET bottle, the type most commonly used for springwater, produces a hundred times more pollution than manufacturing glass.
Sometimes, of course, if it's hot and you're bottleless and dehydrating, and there's no water fountain around, you've got to pop for store-bought water. In that case, you can assuage your conscience by recycling it, since 86 percent of disposable water bottles purchased in the U.S. are tossed in the trash, where they end up in landfills.
While it may boast claims that it's sourced from pure springs, bottled water, unlike municipal tap water, is not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Tests have shown contaminants in some samples, including phthalates, the suspected hormone-disrupting and fat-promoting chemicals, according to Natural Resources Defense Council. Because of the possibility of phthalates migrating out of the plastic, NRDC counsels against drinking from a heated-up PET bottle or one in which water has been stored for a long time.
As there's no telling how long a bottle of water has sat on a shelf, or how long is long enough for phthalates to get footloose, reduce the health and environmental risk by toting water in a reusable (and refillable) container. Choose stainless steel or non-leaching #5 polypropylene or Tritan (the good #7, as opposed to Lexan, which leaches Bisphenol A) bottles, and the green fashion police will give you a green light.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.