Beginning today, no bottled water will be allowed to cross the threshold of Sanibel Sea School. We have always discouraged our students from drinking bottled water, but we’ve been known to let it slide in the past. However, we recently reconsidered our lax approach to enforcing the “no bottled water” rule. As an organization, our mission is to promote good stewardship of the ocean, and bottled water is simply bad for the ocean- really bad. And so we must prioritize taking a stand against it.
Bottled water requires enormous amounts of energy to produce and transport – in fact, it takes 2000 times more energy to produce a single bottled water than it does to fill your reusable water bottle from the tap. With oil, gas, and coal as our leading domestic energy sources, an enormous amount of pollution is produced in the bottled water manufacturing process, and chemicals such as mercury, nickel, and benzene end up in the ocean. This poisons marine life and contaminates our seafood. If everyone stopped drinking bottled water, it would remove almost a billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere- that’s like taking 100,000 cars off the road. The manufacturing of bottled water also wastes water. It takes up to ten times more water to manufacture a bottle of water than actually ends up in the bottle. The water used in manufacturing must then be treated at a treatment facility, which requires energy and leads to even more pollution.
You may be thinking, “but what if I recycle my bottled water?” Recycling is great for materials like paper and some metals, but the process of heating plastic releases dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere and ocean. And while recycling is not a bad idea, the reality is that 80 to 90 percent of plastic bottles end up in the trash or as litter – that’s about 22 billion bottles per year. If you have ever walked along Sanibel’s shoreline, you’ve seen the battered plastic bottles that frequently wash up on the beach. If your great-great-great grandchildren are in the right place at the right time, they might see the same bottle, because it will still be bobbing around in the sea 500 years from now. It can take a plastic bottle up to 1000 years to decompose, and as the plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, it resembles common food sources for many sea creatures. Sea turtles mistake plastic for jellyfish, and shorebirds mistake it for small invertebrates. These animals often end up on the beach, sick or dead with stomachs full of plastic particles that they are unable to digest. “Synthetic Sea” is an eye-opening short documentary that brings attention to the shocking amount of plastic in the ocean and its effects on marine life.
Eliminating bottled water from your life is not only good for the environment, it’s good for you. Financially, bottled water is a rip-off, sold at up to 100 times the cost that companies spend to produce it. A gallon of Evian is more than double the price of an expensive gallon of gasoline, so next time you think the oil companies are robbing you, you may want to reconsider. The “Price of a Gallon” website lists other fun comparisons.
From a health standpoint, it is a myth that bottled water is healthier than tap water. Bottled water safety regulations are far less stringent than regulations regarding the tap water that comes out of your sink. In fact, many bottled water companies bottle their product directly from the tap. Studies have found microbes and chemicals in many common brands of bottled water (more info).
Also, the plastic used in bottle manufacturing always leaches small amounts of synthetic chemicals into the water, and the health effects of this have not been closely studied. Your tap water is safe to drink directly from the faucet, but if you can’t stand the taste, a filter can make tap water taste fresh and pure. Just make sure you clean or change your filtering system frequently so harmful bacteria doesn’t grow in it and make you sick.
Next time you’re out shopping, resist the temptation to purchase bottled water, and instead buy stainless steel reusable bottles for the whole family (At SX3, we’re fans of the Klean Kanteen) – it’s a great holiday gift idea! You’ll save the environment, save money, and be healthier. When you stop by the Sea School with your environmentally friendly hydration gear, we will welcome you with open arms and gladly refill your bottle.
Sanibel Sea School’s campaign to eliminate bottled water from our campus is made possible through a partnership with the Plank-DiCarlo Family Foundation and Klean Kanteen. If you do not have a reusable water bottle with you when you visit the Sea School, we offer loaner bottles, or you can purchase a Klean Kanteen and the profits will help us achieve our goal of saving the ocean, one child at a time.