Monday, July 13, 2009

I'll See Your Environmental Snobbery and Raise You My Water Snobbery

In a Dallas Morning News op-ed over the weekend, a guy named John Guilford decided--after a mission trip to Honduras, where the water is often unsafe--that we take our water quality for granted and ought to all give up bottled water and return to drinking from the tap:
The trip had its challenges, not the least of which was an expulsion of the president within hours of our return flight. But by and large, it was a great experience. We left with a feeling of kinship and support for our brothers and sisters in Honduras. We also left with a feeling of relief in not having to use bottled water exclusively.

One of the first things I did upon my return to Dallas was to drink long and deep from a water fountain. Such devices are non-existent in developing countries such as Honduras. Other water-based luxuries that we take for granted, such as ice in our fountain drinks or slushed drinks from the convenience store, simply are not to be found. Even if these things were available on the streets of Tegucigalpa, for example, virtually no one would use or buy them because the public water supply is full of bacteria and parasites.

With all this in mind, why is it that so many of us in the United States still purchase and drink bottled water? Our cities and governments have spent billions to provide us safe, drinkable water at pennies per gallon. Many cities and towns tout their "Superior" public water supply ratings. Yet I am regularly amazed when I see people shell out a dollar or two – for filtered tapwater, in many cases.
Well, I can only speak for myself, but I have several really good reasons for preferring bottled water: 1) My tap water tastes awful. 2) I go through a lot of water on an average teaching day, and the bottles are the most convenient way to keep a whole lot of water cold and in nice, compact portions (I can't imagine slobbering out of a cooler all day, much less having to carry the thing around). 3) I only spend five bucks for a 24-pack that lasts a week or more, which is more than worth it to me. 4) DId I mention that my tap water tastes awful?

Guilford laments the fact that people dispose of 60 million plastic bottles in the U.S. alone on a daily basis. But I'm happy to report that not one of my bottles contributes to that number; I recycle each and every one of them. I suppose I could invest in either one of those expensive filtering devices for my kitchen sink or a (likewise somewhat pricey) filtering pitcher for the fridge, but that still doesn't solve the problem of how to apportion the water in a compact, easy-to-carry container that can go with me during the teaching day.

So maybe, at the end of the day, I'm a water snob and Guilford is an environmental snob. The difference is, I'm not trying to encourage everyone to do things my way, and it appears that Guilford is. But as Glenn Reynolds said at Instapundit today, "environmentalism is mostly about posturing--it's not about sacrificing." (Unless, of course, you're calling for someone else to sacrifice something.)

So what's your favorite water source--the bottle or the tap? And what would it take to make you change? (I've already noted, on several posts from my Vermont trips over the years, that if my own tap water tasted like Burlington's--more specifically the cold, clear kind from the wonderful water fountain in the basement of the Flynn Center--I'd own a single refillable bottle and carry it around all day. But, seeing nothing akin to Lake Champlain outside my window, I'm not expecting that to happen anytime soon.)

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