Well-intended / "Water ban"
Last weekend the children and I went to the Bronx zoo with their father. I hadn't been to a zoo since the kids were young enough to ride in strollers. We had a packed lunch, sunscreen, four aluminum water bottles and three cameras, cell phones, sunglasses and three maps to carry. We left the water and lunch in the car and missed the stroller for its convenient hauling capacity.
Fifty paces into the zoo, my daughter becomes thirsty. The first drinking fountain we find dispenses a sorry dribble and won't drain. A solution of pretzel and saliva pools in the basin. She arches her back, cranes her neck trying to slurp. In the distant parking lot, our water is warming in the trunk.
A half hour later, we purchase a single plastic bottle of Snapple lemonade, and ask for two paper cups. We share, filling the cups first with the pink drink and then tipping them into another drinking fountain located near the baboons. We carry the Snapple bottle for another hour before discarding it in a regular garbage bin.
The bottle will outlive many of the species at the zoo.
Bundanoon, Australia, and Concord, Mass., have banned the sale of water sold in plastic water bottles in their communities. I am hesitant to accept this as the answer. As long as cola can be sold in plastic, water should also be able to. Bostonians are boiling their drinking water as I write. I fear if water is banned, we'll go for Fanta, just like we did in Mexico while sweating and climbing ancient ruins.
There are a few obvious solutions to the plastic drinking bottle problem. First and easiest, we need to change our habits. My ex and I could have carried our water bottles. We might have even toned our biceps a bit and with summer coming, that would have been a lovely benefit. The zoo, our town streets, beaches and parks should have functional, clean drinking fountains and access to healthy, free water. One should be able to refill his bottle easily and safely.
When water is available, we don't need cute plastic bottles of it. Every month for a school party the e-mails ask for 20 little water bottles. I understand they are trying to be healthy and they don't want 20 containers of corn syrup and I appreciate that. But what about 20 biodegradable cups? We didn't have bottled beverages when I was a kid. We had cups with riddles on them. Some were even funny.
Water is not the villain. Plastic is. The problem extends beyond beverage. But our plastic beverage obsession is excessive. And we can easily break it. While manufacturers come up with better packaging solutions for parched zoo emergencies, let's come up with our own strategies for home.
A Diet Coke addict, I have invested in a water carbonation machine fitted with a CO2 cartridge. I ordered some Italian soda syrups online and made some of my own by boiling down fruit with a bit of sugar or agave. (It's delicious.) It's also lovely mixed with fruit juice. The kids like to make crazy flavors, like orange-lime-cherry, and feel like mad scientist soda jerks. We carbonate the water and mix with syrup. The kids have a great time with this and can work it better than I do. No one feels deprived. I like the carbonated water on its own and am determined to order some quinine in order to make my own tonic water. I'll let you know how that goes. This has been a fun way for us to decrease our dependency on plastic.
I'm certain there are more ways we can make a difference in the amount of plastic we utilize, if we just think about it.
We buy our orange juice as frozen concentrate. And consider packaging with purchases of laundry soap and cleaning supplies in order to reduce our use of plastic packaging. But, admittedly it is still sizable and we can do more. On garbage day, I am shocked and embarrassed at the recycle pile. We can simplify further.