(& why they are totally unnecessary in the world we live in)

June 20th, 2016 | Georgina Preston, Sustainability Journalist & Content Producer for Sustainable Kingston

Nalgene BottleI take a long, refreshing gulp of Kingston tap water out of my 1 litre Nalgene water bottle. It’s refreshing and quenches my thirst in a way that only water can. The reusable bottle is red, my favourite colour, and made out of hardy BPA free plastic. I’ve had it now for almost three years and I take it everywhere I go. Water bottles such as mine are not an uncommon sight in the places I most frequent. You see, I am a Queen’s student. As you may know, we tend to celebrate our school pride fiercely and when it comes to water bottles, I’ll toot my school’s own horn and say that we deserve it.

Why? Queen’s has a Bottled Water Free Campus, meaning that you are unable to buy plastic water bottles at any retail store or vending machine. Instead, there are around 70 bottle filling stations throughout campus and students and staff are strongly encouraged to carry a reusable bottle just like mine. Perhaps you are now wondering what the big deal is. What’s wrong with the 24 pack of water bottles I get from the grocery store? Or the bottles I get from the corner store, or the vending machine? Truthfully, there is not only a lot wrong with it, bottled water is probably one of the most needless products out there for people in Canada and more specifically, people in Kingston.

Let’s consider the facts:

Water bottles generate incredible amounts of waste and most don’t get into the recycling stream. Once in the waste system, these bottles take over 1000 years to biodegrade, while burning the plastic produces toxic fumes that are bad for our health. These bottles also take up vast quantities of important resources. 1.5 billion barrels of oil per year is used to produce the plastic for the bottles, while 3 litres of water go into the making of a 1 litre plastic bottle. On top of that, the transportation from manufacturer to store burns an excessive amount of fossil fuels.

And that’s just the environmental angle. Bottled water puts a price on something that should be a universal human right. In an exposé by CBC, writer Kazi Stastna says that “Bottled water can cost anywhere from about eight cents per 500 ml bottle of house brand spring water bought in bulk at a large grocery store chain to $2.50 for a high-end brand like Fiji or Evian in a vending machine.” Meanwhile, tap water is relatively free. So when you think about it, buying water bottles, whether in bulk or out of a vendor, is an outrageous waste of money when you could be filling up a reusable bottle for nothing.

Some people worry about the quality of the tap water, often thinking that bottled water has health benefits that the tap water does not. In Canada, we are very lucky to have the quality of water that we do. In Kingston specifically, we have a great water treatment facility. A professor from Queen’s university named Stephen Brown is an expert in water quality, and states that Kingston’s tap water matches or can come close to matching bottled water quality with a simple filtration, such as a Brita.

BlueW Map

Map of water bottle refill stations in downtown Kingston, courtesy of bluew.org

Luckily for us, Kingston Utilities has a fabulous initiative in place in which the public can access “high-quality tap water” through a program with Blue W. Blue W is a “unique community-based program dedicated to promoting municipal tap water as a healthy, easily accessible alternative to purchasing bottled drinks.” What truly makes Blue W special, is the map they provide on their website (www.bluew.org) of Kingston and countless other cities to show where these water bottle filling stations can be found!

So there you have it. The spiel on water bottles. Despite several convincing advertising campaigns, there is no good reason for someone to be drinking bottled water, especially in Kingston. Instead, look into buying a reusable bottle. They can be found in a variety of stores, and for a variety of prices. Mine was just under $14, but if I think about all the money and waste I have saved in the last 3 years by NOT purchasing plastic water bottles, it suddenly feels priceless.