Guest post from Alexandra Beane, Wheels For Wishes
The United States is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water. In 2011, the United States set a record for purchasing 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water nationwide, which is equal to 29.2 gallons per person. Unfortunately, only 27 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled in the United States, and they are 100 percent recyclable. Each year, 35 billion plastic water bottles are thrown in the trash in the United States alone. The total carbon footprint of one 500 ml (16.9 oz) bottle of water is 828g of carbon dioxide. Water transported from overseas can have an even higher footprint! Fiji water travels up to 5,000 miles to reach San Francisco, and French brands travel up to 6,200 miles to get there.
Choosing to drink from reusable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles is a small change that can make a huge difference for the environment, and it also saves you money in the long run. Bottled water can be up to 500 times more expensive as tap water, so you’d save plenty of money if you switched to a BPA-free reusable water bottle.
Even if you can’t do everything possible to reduce your carbon footprint, drinking local is a good place to start. Other ways to make a difference are to cut back on showers or reduce the amount of time you spend in the shower, and don’t let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth.
Instead of driving everywhere, walk, carpool, bike, or use public transportation whenever possible. Each and every little change you make will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
by Wheels For Wishes
The weekend of November 12 and 13, I traveled to San Francisco to work at our 10th annual Green Festival there. On the way back to Washington, DC, I traveled through my hometown in Kentucky for a family visit, and I’m only just now arriving back home. With the goal of an even more plastic-free life before me for the entire month of November, my ten days of traveling brought me into contact with a series of plastics choices I don’t face in my everyday life.
There’s the “stupid plastics” being pushed on the planes (those tiny plastic drink cups that hardly ever get recycled), plastic in my hotel rooms (plastic-wrapped plastic cups in the bathroom), and all the plastic involved in simply getting through airport security (the quart-sized plastic “liquids” bag filled with all kinds of small-sized plastic personal items). Through it all, it’s my sturdy reusable metal water bottle that saved the most plastic from entering my life.
Carrying it empty through airport security is just fine, and in the San Francisco airport I even saw dedicated water-bottle-filling stations, apart from the water fountains and bathrooms. I had way more refreshing water with me at my seat — at all times — than any of my traveling companions accpeting micro-sized drinks from the flight attendant, and I never had to purchase a bottled beverage during my ten days of travel.
The small plastic bag of personal products is another matter. My too-large (but only half-finished) tube of toothpaste got confiscated, so not only did I waste toothpaste and plastic, but I also had to buy a travel-sized tube at my first destination (also packaged in plastic). I look at my plastic contact lens case, bottle of contact solution, contact cleaner, dental-floss case, deoderant tube, travel toothbrush, and razor blades packaged in plastic, and realize I’ve got lots more steps to take.
I’ve learned about some toothpaste alternatives from commentors on this blog, and I bought a deoderant stone in San Francisco at the Green Festival. So, hooray for next steps, and also I’m curious to hear others’ green-travel tips for going plastic-lite. What next steps can I take to minimize the plastic I tote with me on the road?