Thursday, August 1, 2013

Think before you drink

Corporate sustainability is an enterprise-wide undertaking. Why? Because CS is not merely about recycling waste-paper, setting printer defaults to "two-sided" and turning off computers and office lights when not in use. (Tho' these are all fantastic ideas, and ones that you should incorporate into your daily code of sustainability behavior.) It is ultimately about achieving a "zero-net" carbon footprint--and since virtually all commercial activity involves carbon output (usually from fossil fuels), virtually all enterprises are net-positive contributors to GHG output. Achieving zero-net therefore requires coordinated corporate action, such as purchasing offsets, participating in corporate transportation programs such as BP's CoolFuel (, and proactive energy reduction measures in the supply chain.
But that doesn't mean that individuals can't make meaningful contributions to energy reductions that lead to corresponding curtailment of GHG emissions. As part of an on-going series of "Individual Actions", this is post offers one easy and high-impact way that you can reduce your personal footprint (while also saving a BIG BUCKS*): Switch to filtered tap water.

Bottled water is almost incomprehensibly fossil fuel intensive: energy is required to pump it, bottle it, ship it, deliver it and display it. And that's before the manufacturing (and disposal) of the petroleum-based plastic bottle is accounted for. It is certainly true that filtered water also requires energy: it has to be pumped from the reservoir to the tap. But whereas many bottled water sources are extremely remote from the point of consumption (Evian is in France; where are you?), most municipal water comes from local sources and doesn't require an energy outlay (or corresponding GHG emissions) to run either a bottling process or a trucking-based delivery chain. Best of all, tap water doesn't require a fossil-derived plastic bottle that required limited resources to produce, and limited resources to dispose of. So when it comes to water, please think before you drink.

Note: For everything you ever wanted to know about bottled water (but were afraid to ask), take a deep dive into NRDC's report on the topic.... learn such frothy, fun facts as one 'brand of "spring water" whose label pictured a lake and mountains, actually came from a well in an industrial facility's parking lot, near a hazardous waste dump, and periodically was contaminated with industrial chemicals at levels above FDA standards,' and most cities have to test surface water for Giardia--yet bottlers don't have to.

*Bottled water can carry a price tag as much as 10,000 times that of tap water. Yikes.