Looking down from my high horse, it seems like it’s been a short, easy transition from my old lifestyle to whatever-it-is I’m doing now (pretty much terrorizing the neighborhood and driving my boyfriend nuts). But that is only because my horse (let’s call him Charlie) is a very old, very broken-in horse whose saddle is prone to make one forget the rough trail.
Fear not, gentle travelers! I am going to SHARE these numerous VALUABLE SECRETS with you. I am serious.
FIRST AND FOREMOST:
Every environmental/eco/green/simplicity/no-waste blogger will reiterate two things at you OVER AND OVER to begin with. This is probably because they are very important. And you should probably do them.
1. STOP DRINKING OUT OF PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES.
But, but, but, I hear you say. NO BUTS. Most people don’t realize the INCREDIBLE environmental harm a few bottles of water a week can do to both the planet and to your body.
This is a link to the Story of Bottled Water. http://youtu.be/Se12y9hSOM0 Watch it, if you’re a visual learner, or READ ON!
Tap water is dirty.
Bottled water is clean.
I recycle the bottles! They get turned into other bottles!
It SAYS BPA-Free. So it won’t hurt me!
I wash them out and reuse them, so it’s okay!
Bottled water is friggin’ EXPENSIVE. Consumers tend to pay about 2000 times MORE for bottled water than for tap water. Which leads us to:
In most places (at least in the US and countries that have the infrastructure to sanitize drinking water) tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Admittedly, there are exceptions, but these are exceptions, not the rule. storyofstuff.org‘s Annie Leonard says,
“In the US, tap water is regulated by the EPA, while bottled water is regulated by the FDA. Unlike the FDA, which has no reporting requirements, EPA requires your local utility to provide an Annual Water Quality Report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report, which must show any violations of drinking water quality standards. Local health departments also often provide testing services or have lists of accredited labs that do water testing.
Yes, some citiesâ€™ water supplies are not at their best. (Environmental Working Groupâ€™s database can tell you if your city is on the list of less-than-optimal water supplies.) But even in these places the long-term solution is not to buy bottled water â€“ but to make the tap water safe to drink.”
MORE MYTHS & REALITIES: Story of Bottled Water Myth v. Reality PDF
In addition, most plastic bottles that MAKE it to the recycling center, well, they don’t make it back into bottle-hood. Instead, their best bet at reincarnation is usually plastic lumber, what many environmentalists refer to as “downcycling.”
To continue: Plastic is plastic! Just because the manufacturer of the reusuable bottle, or the case of water bottles you purchase, tells you there isn’t any BPA (bisphenol-A, a hormone-disrupting chemical in pretty much every plastic that doesn’t specifically say otherwise, as well as in can linings and thermal receipt paper) in their product, they DON’T HAVE TO tell you what else is in there. Seriously. So that means you really SHOULDN’T reuse these bottles. Heating the plastic generally releases the chemicals into the water you’ll eventually be drinking.
More on this: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/04/bpa-free-does-not-mean-safe-most-plastics-leach-hormone-disrupting-chemicals/
OKAY, so now that you’re totally freaked out about dying, and it seems like no matter what you do you’re going to get nasty BPA cooties all over yourself, take a deep breath. Have you made up your mind to stop using plastic water bottles? Good! This is already a HUGE step! It won’t be effortless, but it should be fairly simple.
Step One: Find a stainless steel water container. Notice I said find, not buy. Manufacturing these containers has its own impact, and by begging, borrowing and stealing (I KID) you’re flexing your consumer muscle and lessening the demand for more unnecessary things in the world. If you can’t find one secondhand, go ahead and buy a nice new one. Quality is important, but these babies will last you for the long haul. I got mine at Target, for about $8, but my boyfriend found his two for $4 at Rite-Aid and $3 at Ross. Dishwash ‘em, drop ‘em, swing them at attackers, but keep in mind:
Step Two: BRING IT EVERYWHERE!
I realize a lot of you might be suffering from TLDNR; but hike up your pantyhose, gentlemen, because I’ve got one ESSENTIAL BABY STEP TO ACHIEVING GREEN SNOOTINESS left!
2. STOP ACCEPTING PLASTIC BAGS!
You’ve probably noticed those branded reusable bags popping up at every grocery store in town.Â There is a reason for that; plastic bags are COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL(and if a corporation can capitalize on any little thing, they will)! They’re made to carry your groceries, and are usually only strong enough for a single use, but are made of a material that takes thousands of years to break down! Also, they accumulate like rabbits in your pantry or under your sink. AMIRITE? Also, nobody except that one odd kid from “American Beauty” thinks plastic bags are cool. AND EVEN THEN THEY’RE USELESS.
Refuse plastic bags. Preferably BEFORE the cashier starts bagging for you, but I promise you, most of them prefer not to have to separate those slippery bags (I was a cashier for several years. I KNOW). If they’ve already bagged it, apologize and POLITELY tell them you don’t need it. Make sure to be nice, a lot of people snap this at cashiers. Not cool.
FIND some canvas tote bags (bet you a dollar you can snag some for free from businesses or on Freecycle or Craigslist) at a thrift store, yard sale, or even stuffed in a friend’s closet. Those things are everywhere. Why not just buy some at the store? Well, you could. I did (I forgot my stronger, more awesome canvas ones once, before my AWESOME REMEMBERING TIP was born, but I digress) and they work fine. However, these bags are newly manufactured just for this use. Why not again flex your sexy, oiled-up consumer biceps and use something that’s already laying around? Also, I am of the opinion that canvas totes are bigger and stronger than the recyclable grocery story variety. They are capable of ripping, and I imagine not machine washable. Not that I’ve tried. I just like my clothes sans melted plastic fibers.
Alright, so I hear your cries of dismay, mostly gibberish about how hard it is to remember reusable bags. I keep them in the trunk of my car(sub purse or bike basket if you don’t drive), and after a while I got used to grabbing them out before entering the grocery store (or abandoning my cart and charging out to the parking lot if I hadn’t). But how do you remember to put them back in your car/bag/bike basket after you unload them?
PREPARE YOURSELVES, MORTAL READERS, FOR ERIKA’S GUARANTEED AWESOME BAG REMEMBERING TIP: Put your keys in the bag(s).
Seriously. It sounds simple, but trust me, you’re not going anywhere without them. Unless you just leave and lock yourself out…in which case you didn’t hear it from me….