In my effort to become more low waste I decided to kick off the month of January by taking a personal inventory of all the areas where I produce the most garbage.
Besides using my share of electricity and water, I’m a heavy plastic user.
Do you remember when people started to become more environmentally conscious and suddenly reusable water bottles were everywhere? They were attached to backpacks and clutched in the manicured claws of women walking to work. My own boyfriend invested in a number of metal ones.
Call me a contrarian but I never hopped on the bandwagon. It’s not that I didn’t care about the environment back then (I did) but I just cared about how I took my water more.
Water & Me: A Brief History
If you knew me back in my late teens/early twenties, you know that I never drank water.
Never, ever, ever.
Of course, that changed when I read some health pamphlet on all the negative consequences of not drinking H2O. Once I found out that extreme dehydration (I worked out like a fiend and chugged diet coke) could be the reason my stomach and joints hurt I began forcing myself to drink a gallon of water a day.
The easiest way for me to accomplish this was to walk around with a literal gallon of water wherever I went. If I could finish it, I’d allow myself my (at the time) beloved diet coke. But as you may have guessed, it would take me all day to finish the gallon. By the time bedtime rolled around I was too full of water to want anything else.
Maybe you think this sounds excruciating, but it wasn’t. In about a week I started to notice that I was less bloated. My skin became better. In a month, my joint pain had disappeared.
I kept up my gallon a day routine and even though I eventually switched to smaller bottles, I still drink what some may call an obscene amount of water.
Many say that water is tasteless, but I disagree. Some brands taste smoother, others are less palpable or have an aftertaste. Don’t ask me why, but I can tell the difference between Evian, Dasani and Fiji.
My personal favorite has long been Poland Springs. If you can’t tell from the above photo, I love the stuff.
The Problem with Plastics
For years I was unbothered by my use of plastic water bottles. After all, I recycled. But here’s the problem with that: not all plastics can be recycled.
Did you know that? I sure didn’t.
Biodegradable VS Recyclable
It seems as many things we encounter when we try to live a more natural life, there is a lot of misleading terminology when it comes to plastics and how problematic they are to the environment.
Most of us grew up learning that plastic can be recylced, but that’s not accurate. For example, if the plastic contains polyvinyl chloride it can not be recycled. This means that plastic bags and lids to coffee cups should not be making their way into your recycle bin. I know, frustrating.
Plastic bottles are not biodegradable, which means they cannot be broken down into their smallest chemical component. They can be made smaller, but they can’t be digested by organisms and returned to the Earth to continue the life cycle.
Left in a landfill they could take 1000 years to break down, and in that time period they could release chemicals that are harmful to the soil, surrounding water and animals.
Although some plastic bottles can be recycled a lot of energy is wasted creating them. This is where the real problem lies. According to GetGreenNow.com, 76 million barrels of oil are used to produce, transport and dispose plastic bottles in a single year! Furthermore, the extraction process negatively impacts the environment.
Some water companies extract enough water from natural sources that the water supply literally runs dry. Understandably, this can devastate the local wildlife.
Better Than Recycling
While I know that I’ll probably use plastic bottles from time to time, there clearly is a better way to live and that’s biting the bullet and not using disposable plastic to get my daily water fix.
You may be wondering why I’ve never invested in a reusable water bottle. It’s a good question, but the answer may not be as good. The truth is I just don’t like them. They become dingy so fast and I’ve never been a huge fan of them.
When it comes to metal I can’t stand the metallic flavor. Totally not scientific, but I feel I have an acute sense of taste and whenever I use a metal water bottle I detect the material. No me gusta.
Fortunately, I’m not doomed to drink my water through reciprocals I cannot stand. A quick Google search and I found that in fact, portable reusable glass water bottles do exist. Score!
As I speak, I have almost two containers of water bottles. Following one of the main rules of low waste, I am going to use them but afterward, my goal is to make the switch to drinking my water from a glass.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. Of all the ways I plan to adopt low waste practices, this one may prove the most challenging. As I occasionally mention throughout this blog, I do have some health issues and staying well hydrating is a fundamental practice for me at this point. However, I’m committed to seeing this transition through.
What low waste practices have your adopted and which have been the most challenging?
Hudson Valley based writer.