Dec 14

The Problem With Bottled Water & Its Effects On Our Environment

Individual use of plastic water bottles has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Not only is bottled water much more expensive than tap water, but there is also a serious cost to our planet:

  • 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually to manufacture plastic water bottles. (Earth Policy Institute)
  • 2 million tons of plastic bottles are land filled every year. (Worldwatch Institute)
  • Only 1 out of every 10 plastic bottles is recycled.
  • Bottled water has to either be pumped out of the ground or treated. Up to 1500 gallons of water are wasted during this process.
  • Bottled water uses fossil fuels in the making, filling, transporting, and recycling of plastic water bottles…up to 187 gallons of oil are spent! To learn more about this process, check out “The Story of Bottled Water” at www.storyofstuff.org/bottledwater.php
  • 1 billion pounds of CO2 is emitted in the transportation of bottled water in the United States alone.
  • 40% of PET bottles recycled in the United States in 2004 were exported – adding to the resources used.

Bottled water is drinking water packaged in plastic or glass containers. The dominant form is water packaged in new Polyethylene terephthalate bottles and sold retail. Another method of packaging is in larger high-density polyethylene plastic bottles, or polycarbonate plastic bottles, often used with water coolers.

Wasted material

The major criticism of bottled water concerns the bottles themselves. Individual use bottled water is generally packaged in Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). According to a NAPCOR study, PET water bottles account for 50% of all the PET bottles and containers collected by curbside recycling, and the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, an increase over the 2006 rate of 20.1%. PET bottled water containers make up one-third of 1 percent of the waste stream in the United States.An estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally.

Health effects

Bottled water does not imply a specific treatment process or better process than tap water or another water source. Some bottled water is simply tap water bottled and sold. In the United States, the FDA regulates bottled water whilst the EPA regulates the quality of tap water and has created 90 maximum contaminant levels for drinking water and 15 secondary maximum contaminant levels.

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time. However, the NRDC report conceded that “most waters contained no detectable bacteria, and the levels of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards.” Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, “federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides.”

The rate of total dissolved solids is sometimes 4 times higher in bottled mineral waters than in bottled tap ones.

Another study, conducted by the Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water, contained in plastic containers were polluted with estrogenic chemicals. Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers themselves.

Bottled water vs tap water

In the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than US$0.01.In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself—bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities, but may also produce negative toxicological side-effects.

Bottled water has reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion. However, this varies by the household and plumbing system.

In a study with 57 bottled water samples and tap water samples, all of the tap water samples had a bacterial content under 3 CFUs/mL and the bottled water samples’ bacterial content ranged from 0.01-4900 CFUs/mL(colony-forming unit). Most of the water bottle samples were under 1 CFU/mL, though there were 15 water bottle samples containing 6-4900 CFUs/mL.

In another study comparing 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples resulted exceeding the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium. Being exposed to these contaminants in high concentration for long periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage, and increase risk for lung and pancreas disease.

In much of the developed world chlorine is often added as a disinfectant. If the water contains organic matter, this can produce other products in the water such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. The level of residual chlorine found is small at around 00.2g per litre which is too small to directly cause any health problems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund have all urged their supporters to consume less bottled water. Anti-bottled water campaigns and organizations, such as Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2007 episode, that in a controlled setting, diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.

Privatization of water

The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the “privatization” of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more ecologically just than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has largely seen positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle.

Tapped is a film that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. visit: http://www.tappedthefilm.com/

The Answer?

Home Water Filter Systems. Fortunately, there is an inexpensive and reliable alternative to tap water and bottled water. Home water filter systems are a far better option than bottled water in every way. A quality home water filter system filters out the dangerous contaminants found in tap water, including lead, chlorine, herbicides and pesticides. The home water filter industry has developed a wide variety of filter options, from drinking water filters to attach to your kitchen faucet, to under sink filters to shower filters to whole house water filters.

For pennies per gallon, a quality home water filter system turns your tap water into clean, healthy and safe water. No more bottles to deal with, no more bad taste or smell to your water, and no more concern about the water you and your family are drinking every day. For your health, for your budget and for our environment, a MultiPure home water filter is the best choice by far.

Aug 22

Make Back-To-School A “Green” Event

Photograph courtesy of tncountryfan/Flickr, Creative Commons license

Photograph courtesy of tncountryfan/Flickr, Creative Commons license

What motivates people to save energy? This year, the Great Energy Challenge launched a project, the 360º Energy Diet, designed in part to tackle this very question. (Another round of the diet begins this fall.) For some people who joined, it was the idea of living a simpler, less wasteful lifestyle. Others liked the idea of losing weight, whether it was literally shedding pounds by switching to less energy-intensive eating habits, or lightening their monthly bills by saving on electricity and other expenses.

survey released earlier this year by the consulting firms Deloitte and the Harrison Group confirms that financial incentives can motivate changes in energy use. Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed with the statement “I/Our family took several extra steps to reduce our electric bill as a result of the recession.” Even more striking, 95 percent of those consumers have no plans to go back to their pre-recession spending habits, even if the economy improves.

Operating on this same “green” (i.e. monetary) concept, the company Recyclebank offers consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom discounts and deals in exchange for everyday planet-friendly actions such as recycling electronics or cutting energy use at home. Looking ahead to the school year, when many families are making lots of new purchases and preparing students to participate in many new activities, Recyclebank offers these tips for a less resource-intensive back-to-school season:

Pack waste-free lunches: It’s estimated that Americans go through 100 billion plastic bags a year- this averages to 360 bags per person. Purchase a reusable lunch bag or box for your child, and fill reusable bottles with water or juice. If you do use plastic bags, reuse and recycle them. Clean and dry Ziploc® bags can be recycled at most grocery stores where you drop off plastic shopping bags.

Encourage school cafeterias to buy local:
 At the next PTA meeting, discuss the topic with other parents and consider connecting with school administrators about bringing local food to the cafeteria for sustainable and healthy lunches. Contact the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service for resources and information on farm-to-school programs.

Conserve paper:
 Remind your family to only print when truly necessary. If you must print, do it on 100-percent recycled paper, which is often cheaper than paper made from trees. Consider investing in eReaders and tablet computers; your children can use them for school assignments and you forgo buying paper books, newspapers and magazines.

Choose sustainable school supplies:
 In the United States alone, approximately 11,600 incense-cedar trees are cut down to create the 2 billion pencils made each year. To minimize your environmental footprint, opt for school supplies wrapped in limited packaging and recycle what you can. Seek out greener supplies like recycled or mechanical pencils, refillable pens and paper clips made from recycled steel.

“Upcycle” last year’s supplies: Three-ring binders that are still in great working order can be refurbished at home. Cover the entire exterior of the binder with a sheet of cork contact paper, then trim to size for a clean, modern looking folder.

Recycle old electronics: If you’re upgrading your family’s electronics this year, be mindful of recycling old models (Recyclebank offers rewards for this). Don’t forget to recycle the batteries too.

Green your wardrobe: Shop in vintage or thrift stores to suspend the life of clothing, or even arrange a clothing swap with friends or relatives. When buying new clothes, look for those made with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and bamboo.

Streamline transportation:
 Use school or public buses when at all possible to reduce emissions. If you must drive, arrange a carpool. Getting bikes (and helmets) for the whole family is the most efficient way to go – and fun and healthy too.

In order to up the ante on many of these actions, Recyclebank is holding a Green Your School Year Challenge that begins Wednesday and goes through Sept. 30. The highest scorers can win prizes including $2,500 gift cards to Macy’s, electric bicycles and e-readers. No matter what your motivation, the fall season offers a good opportunity to reevaluate some of the choices we make every year, and possibly get some “green” in the process.

Jul 25

The Next Generation Of Turbines Go Underwater

The Next Generation Of Turbines Go Underwater, And They’re Coming Soon

BY MICHAEL J. CORENWed Jul 20, 2011

As the U.S. slowly abandons its dams, more and more pilot programs pop up for deriving power from tides and river currents. Welcome to a new age of water power.

Every day, enough water flows down America’s rivers and streams to power tens of millions of homes. With the era of big dams effectively over in the U.S., halted by the lack of suitable sites as much as environmental concerns, the time for hydrokinetic energy may just be dawning.

The ideas of using turbines, or other mechanical devices, to capture the energy of moving water is not a new one. Yet the technology for such hydrokinetic energy has met serious resistance from conditions below the surface. As water is 832 times denser than air, it poses tough engineering challenges for power generators who must contend with corrosion, stray electromagnetic fields, and rules to safeguard sealife.

“There’s a lot of electricity to be had from these device and probably fewer environmental impacts, says Glenn Cada, senior researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the Department of Energy’s program to improve hydrokenetic technology and minimize the environmental impacts. “It’s not as easy as taking a taking a wind turbine and putting it under water. The forces are much greater. We are trying to understand how to make them sturdy enough to generate electricity from river currents.”

Demonstration projects in the Mississippi and New York’s East Rivers have been steadily perfecting the technology needed to capture this energy for almost a decade. Verdant Power’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project in New York’s East River (soon to be expanded) has successfully operated six underwater turbines between 2006-2008, and delivering 70 megawatt hours to a nearby supermarket and parking garage in what the company called the “world’s first grid-connected array of tidal turbines.” Free Flow Power Power has installed its own turbines, resembling jet engines, in the Mississippi and is eying more than 50 expansion sites.

Now, everyone from state agencies to universities are racing to get into the game. Applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for new hydrokinetic sites have soared in the last three years: 79   have been approved since 2009 (almost double those as of 2008), and 145 more are awaiting final approval in  Missouri, Maine, Louisiana, New Jersey and other states.

Eventually, based on the ambitions of several energy developers, underwater fields of hundreds of turbines could generating enough megawatts to power cities around the country.

“We’re trying to prove these things right now,” says Cada.

[Image: Atlantis Resources Corporation]

Reach Michael J. Coren via Twitter or email.

Read More: World’s First Floating Wind Turbine Installed, Ready for Testing

Jun 22

Dire forecast of marine life catastrophe – San Francisco Chronicle

The world’s oceans are degenerating far faster than predicted and marine life is facing extinction due to a range of human impacts – from overfishing to climate change – a report compiled by international scientists warned Tuesday.

The cumulative impact of “severe individual stresses,” ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification to widespread chemical pollution and overfishing, would threaten the marine environment with a catastrophe “unprecedented in human history.”

The conclusions were published by a panel of international scientists who reviewed recent research at a workshop at Oxford University in Britain. They will be presented to the United Nations in New York this week for discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

The report warned that damage to marine life would harm its ability to support humans, and that entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs, could be lost in a generation. Coral deaths alone would be considered a mass extinction, according to study chief author Alex Rogers of Oxford University. A single bleaching event in 1998 killed one-sixth of the world’s tropical coral reefs.

Carl Lundin, director of global marine programs at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which helped produce the report with the International Program on the State of the Ocean, pointed to deaths of 1,000-year-old coral in the Indian Ocean and called the situation “really unprecedented.”

Chemicals and plastics from daily life are also causing problems for sea creatures, the report said. Overall, the world’s oceans just can’t bounce back from problems – such as oil spills – as they used to, scientists said.

“Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean,” it said.

The marine scientists called for a range of urgent measures to cut carbon emissions, reduce overfishing, shut unsustainable fisheries, create protected areas in the seas and cut pollution.

“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realized,” Rogers said. “This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level.”

A separate study released Monday provided the most detailed look yet of sea level rise from global warming. It found the world’s oceans have been rising significantly over the past century. The yearly rise is slightly less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over decades. That study was published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This article appeared on page A – 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle