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MIKE KEELER: One Big Bottle of DUH

Let us now praise the pandemic.

It was poetic that on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day back in April 2020, when the world was completely shut down, the Earth demonstrated its amazing powers of recovery. There were jellyfish swimming in the suddenly clear channels of Venice. Folks in some parts of India could see the Himalayas in the distance for the first time in their lives. And there was a huge reduction in wasteful consumption of just about…everything.

Alas, we are now back to normal. Political candidates are on trial for fraud and corruption. The Middle East is about to explode. And as Earth Day came and went largely unnoticed, consumers are back to making really stupid choices about things like…water.

Over the last couple of decades, somehow we decided that water that comes from a bottle at the store is purer than water that comes out of the tap. But the fact is that bottled water is a food, regulated under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration, while tap water is regulated by the much stricter standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. So in most cases, tap water is cleaner. But you’re probably thinking – based on the packaging – that most bottled waters come out of pure little springs that flow fresh from the ground in pristine locations. Unfortunately, most bottled waters on the market are just tap water that’s been filtered, including the top two sellers, Aquafina (made by Pepsico) and Dasani (Coca-Cola). And they are incredibly lucrative products; bottled water is approximately twice as expensive as gasoline.

But wait! It gets ironically worse. The act of making bottled water is extraordinarily wasteful of fresh water. Engineers have calculated that, to bring 1 liter of water from a source in Fiji to market in the United States, approximately 7 liters of fresh water are used to make the bottle, bottle the water, and transport it (not to mention the quarter liter of fossil fuels and a pound of greenhouse gases). And the thirst for sources of water that can be bottled is forcing corporations to buy up any fresh water they can find, denying millions of people access to safe and affordable water.

But all this compares to the great DUH, the mega-DUH, the “what the heck were they thinking?” DUH. The bottled water industry creates about 1.5 million tons of plastic per year. About 20% of that plastic is recycled. The other 80% goes into landfills or washes into streams and rivers. Much of it makes its way to the Pacific, and floats all the way to the Philippines. Then it gets caught in the North Pacific Gyre, which swirls it back into the center of the ocean, where it becomes part of the North Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a vast continent of DUH, already bigger than the continental United States. It’s out there, it will never break down, and it’s growing with every sip.

So here’s a crisp and refreshing post-pandemic idea. Stay home. Go to your kitchen. Turn on the faucet. See that clear liquid stuff flowing out? It’s called water. Drink some.

Otherwise the planet will be destroyed by DUH. And that’s a FACT.

  • Mike Keeler

    Mike Keeler

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