Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
Since the beginning of time, living beings (human, animal or plant) have required water for sustenance and through the ages humans have looked for ways to 'bottle' it for travel.
In 1621, it began in the United Kingdom with the first water bottling at the Holy Well. The first commercially distributed water in America was sold by Jackson’s Spa in Boston in 1767. Early drinkers of bottled spa or mineral waters believed water from the mineral springs it originated from had therapeutic properties to help treat many common ailments.
As the industrial innovation of the 19th century expanded, it lowered the cost of making glass and improved production speed for bottling. Bottled water was being produced on a larger scale and the beverage grew in popularity. Glass-bottled water was seen by many as a safer alternative to 19th century municipal water supplies that could be contaminated with pathogens like cholera and typhoid. By the middle of the century, one of America’s most popular bottlers, Saratoga Springs, was producing more than seven million bottles of water annually.
However, the 20th century would bring chlorinated water to municipal water supplies, causing a large decline in bottled water demand in North America. That is, until a successful advertising and marketing campaign by Perrier in 1977 created a surge once again in purchased bottled water.
After centuries of glass bottles, the world changed in an insurmountable way. I am not sure anyone could predict the success and demand that would universally fall upon the world after the invention from an engineer named Nathaniel Wyeth. Wyeth patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, aka the plastic bottle. These bottles were able to withstand the pressures of carbonation in both water and soft drinks. It had resistance to fracture and a light weight that made travel more comfortable.
Some studies show that North America is one of the leading consuming continents, and global consumption of bottled water goes up 10 per cent each year. A study in 2008 showed Americans drinking more bottled water than milk or beer, consuming nine billion gallons of bottled water, an average of 30 gallons per person.
The cost of plastic bottled water is approximately 2,000 times the cost of getting it from your water tap. So it really is not surprise to learn that the bottled water industry is making billions and billions and billions of dollars each year.
It’s accessible and convenient, but is it safe?
We can all access safe drinking water from our own taps here in Canada, but many Canadians buy cases of plastic water bottles weekly for its convenience. But did you know there are relatively few regulations on what bottled water contains?
A Natural Resources Defense Council scientific study showed over one third of the tested brands contain small amounts of contaminants like arsenic and carcinogenic compounds. Exposure to BPA (Bisphenol A), even at low and short-term doses, is linked to a staggering number of health problems including: breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, impaired, altered, and compromised immune system, miscarriage, impaired female reproductive development and more. Even the FDA (which can have lower standards and allow small amounts of BPA to be approved) has warned not to drink from plastic water bottles that have been elevated in temperature from being left in car due to increase and unsafe amounts of BPAs.
What happens to all the plastic bottles?
Landfills are filling rapidly around the world with plastic water bottles and their presumed life span of over 500 years. It would be a safe bet to say that every plastic bottle you have used exists somewhere on this planet, in some form or another.
Some statistics show that only about 20 per cent of plastic bottles are actually recycled by the consumer. And of that 20 per cent, only a portion are recycled from there.
“Typically, 50 per cent of what you put in your recycling bin is never recycled. It's sorted and thrown out,” says Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a recycling company.
How does this affect our Earth?
The amount of oil used to make a year's worth of bottles could fill one million cars for a year. Let me repeat that... one million cars for one year! There are wars over oil and we use this amount just to make plastic water bottles for convenience?
To boot, studies show that more water is used in making the plastic bottle than filling it, therefore using twice the amount of water than if you were getting your water from your own tap.
Not to mention the financial and environmental costs of transportation of all the bottled water which is another concern because of the energy used and the consequential release of carbon dioxide and the potential impact on climate change.
Like so many things in our modern, technologically evolving world, the intentions perhaps were pure but the outcome is questionable. In fact, the concern of plastic bottles has been raised and heard with many municipalities around the world banning the sale of plastic bottled water. In Canada, passed bans on municipal properties include: Ajax; Burlington, Cornwall, London, Newmarket, Niagara Falls, Oakville, Oshawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Windsor, Waterloo, Nelson, Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto.
So what can we do as individuals?
Revert to the old ways of quenching your thirst. Get yourself several stainless steel or glass water bottles. An easy and effective option is large mason jars. If you have concern about tap water, get a filter system either on the tap directly or a container for the fridge. Research which are healthiest options. Keep stainless steel bottles in your automobiles for refill when travelling and on the go. More and more cities are popping up water refill stations or water fountains for public use. Stop buying plastic and if do have to use, put in recycle. You and our Earth will be happier and healthier with the change.
(If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)