Monday, October 18, 2010

Daily: How ethical is my water drinking habit?

I’m big on global issues, hence my participation in the Global Issues Network group at my former school (member as sophomore and junior, then leader as senior), and my thirst for documentaries (hard to quench! Mad Hot Ballroom, my all-time favorite, however doesn’t quite qualify). Because of my blog-hunting during work time (I still get the job done, no worries), I have found several sites, such as Daily Kos or The Simple Dollar, and I have rediscovered good.is.

It was good.is that directed my attention to an old “acquaintance” from the GIN days: Annie Leonard. I formerly knew of her because of The Story of Stuff, which in the mean-time has developed into the Story of Stuff Project, highlighting further issues – such as examining the cosmetics and hygiene product industry (I feel compelled to revamp my purchasing habits, and I have already located alternative products, surprisingly enough from a truly local brand that are very engaged in global issues too) – and the bottled water industry. Which was also a little nudge at a practice introduced by No Impact Man (from the documentary of the same name).

I guess now we are making the connection to my title, finally! You may have picked up on it, maybe not, but I’m a massive water chugger – or at least I try. I aim to drink around 1,5 – 2 liters of water a day. It’s not always easy, but I realize that enough water will for instance keep me from eating more, keep my body hydrated and I think it’s also – when not downed all at once – good for flushing the body of bad stuff (as opposed to washing the minerals out too).

It used to be a pretty expensive habit that especially my Mom encouraged, since everybody in our four-person household tries to average that amount (my brother actually drinks a lot more than that, my parents a lot less because they drink copious amounts of coffee and tea) – meaning we get through a six-pack of water within half a week. That’s 1,5 liter bottles. Plastic.

We’re good with recycling, it’s a routine that is firmly cemented into the weekly grocery shopping: My Mom goes to get a shopping cart while I man the deposit machine that swallows the bottles to go for a recycling and returns a change “bill” that gets swiped at the checkout and reduces the cost by as much deposit appropriate for the returned bottles.

I felt relatively comfortable with this, thinking that the plastic was surely being reprocessed into plastic bottles again, in essence having me drink out of say six plastic bottles the whole time (generalizing here). Annie Leonard instead suggests that bottles are being “downcycled”, that is, the plastic is being used to make lesser products that cannot be recycled again, and whatever is left of the original plastic bottles is shredded and dumped.

That is not what my cheery, save-the-world personality wanted in this whole deal!

However, water and me, we have a relationship. I love it carbonated. I’m so ashamed admitting it! The rasp of it gushing past your throat, it’s incomparable to the listless regular, non-fizzy water straight from the tap. No matter how clean it is, nothing can make up for those bubbles (and I’m not really looking for a carbonator, God knows I’m too lazy to make use of one anyways). Obviously we are having a conflict of interests here, eh?

Well, funnily enough for now there seems to be a solution – glass bottles. Our family purchasing habits haven’t changed though. So the question is where these mysterious glass bottles are coming from. The answer is work. The company I’m interning with is kind enough to budget in glass bottles of carbonated water for the employees – to them for free. So I have no problem with drinking the water I want to drink, and the amounts, without budget concerns and recycling fears (because glass really does get recycled, and not downcycled, according to the educative documentary shorts from a TV show that may be addressing children but has highest viewership in the adult demographic).

And yet, I don’t know. I have a queasy feeling. I feel slightly disturbed, and I cannot put my finger on what it is that disturbs me. Could it be the consumerist perspective (high bottle turn-over rate benefiting the distributor)? Have I been too influenced by Annie Leonard here? All I know is, I will have to learn to enjoy the taste of pallid tap water. Because I know I can’t satisfy my fix for long – I’m moving jobs come the end of the year, and I don’t know what water is like in my new internship. And once I start university I surely won’t be able to blow my groceries budget on SPARKLY WATER :(

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