Water. We cannot survive without it. Humans need it. Animals need it. Plants need it. Our planet needs it. Water comprises 55 to 75 percent of our body weight and covers just over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. But, like the air we breathe, it’s something we often take for granted. Yet it’s an essential component to our physical and mental well-being, and more than anything else we consume, it can affect our health and overall functioning—adversely when we don’t get enough. And unfortunately, most of us aren’t drinking enough.
Every year, the average American uses 167 disposable plastic water bottles … by the time they reach 75 years of age, that same American will have used more than 12,000—of which 9,000 will end up in landfills and oceans.
Is bottled water the answer?
In the U.S., bottled water has the second-largest share of the beverage market, beating out both milk and beer. (Coming in first is soda, which is consumed nearly twice as often as bottled water.) Problem is, while we want to encourage people to drink more water—be it from a water fountain or a bottle—the latter has become a huge environmental concern with nearly 80 percent of plastic water bottles ending up in landfills. It takes a lot of oil—as much as it does to fuel 100,000 cars for a year—to create the billions of plastic water bottles Americans use each year, not to mention shipping them all over the world, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
These environmental worries have prompted some schools to advocate a ban on one-time-use plastic water bottles and many are installing water fountains that double as filling stations making it easy for students and faculty to continually refill their own personal, reusable container. Similarly, in an effort to cut down on litter that leads to excess waste, 20 national parks, including the Grand Canyon, have banned sales of bottled water. The bottled-water industry is lobbying Congress to overturn the ban.
What about water fountains?
The International Plumbing Code thinks water fountains are, well, out of style. In their 2015 manual—followed by most all U.S. city planners—the authors recommend cutting the number of water fountains installed in new buildings by half. And although they only made this recommendation a few years ago, some builders have been steering away from water fountains for a while now.
In 2007, when the University of Central Florida built a 45,000-seat stadium, they didn’t put in one water fountain. Not one! The school claimed the fountains were too expensive and instead sold water bottles for $3 apiece. On opening day, temperatures soared, vendors ran out of water and 60 people were treated for heat-related illnesses. Consequently, the university installed 50 drinking fountains.
Americans use enough water bottles to circle the Earth 5 times!!!
Clearly, the water bottle vs. water fountain debate has many angles and it’s easy to find oneself agreeing, and disagreeing, with issues on both sides.
Bottom line: Proper hydration is both a public and individual health concern. Parents, schools, cities … everyone has a responsibility to make sure clean drinking water is provided throughout the day for all children. And if reeducating people to use water fountains—be it for periodic sips or to refill a reusable bottle—is the key, then we need to do so. Of course the first step, as many would agree, is making sure the water we provide in those fountains is free—free and clear of pollutants as well as free to consume.
Photos courtesy Benjamin VonWong. Visit VonWong.com to learn more about his stunning photography, and why mermaids don’t like plastic. And I hope you’ll join me in taking the pledge to reuse and STOP the consumption of one-time use, plastic water bottles.
Read this article in its entirety at EdibleIndy.com and learn more about how proper hydration is essential for a healthy body.