Sunday, January 27, 2008

Water, water all around

There has been a lot of ink lately devoted to the issue of why Americans, who have some of the best and safest drinking water in the world, consume so much bottled water. Indeed, all those bottles create a series of issues including resources used to make those bottles (plastic is made from petrochemicals and requires additional energy - from fossil fuels - in the manufacturing process), fuel for transporting the bottles and the disposal problem of all those bottles once empty. The vast majority of states do not include bottles from still water in their deposit programs, so they are thrown away after a single use.

Although we don't advertise it, we try very hard here to reduce waste and recycle wherever possible. We would probably fall into the category of a "Green" lodging establishment. We compost all vegetable matter from the kitchen in the months where the compost isn't likely to freeze, we make extremely limited use of chemical cleaners preferring natural products as much as possible, and we sort and recycle as much material as we are able.

Our town does not make recycling easy. We are required to sort glass from plastic and metal, returnables from everything else, remove caps and rinse everything so it does not attract critters. We then bag them and take them to the transfer station, where they must be removed from the bags and placed in the appropriate bins. Newspapers must be bundled and cardboard flattened. We do it because I feel it is my duty as a responsible citizen to recycle and reuse to conserve energy and resources. I pull bottles and cans from guest room trash baskets (unless they are truly icky), rinse when necessary and sort them.

It does not bother me at all when guests bring beer, wine or soda to drink during their stay. Even a couple of bottles of water aren't a big issue. It does, however, distress me when guests bring cases of 1-liter or smaller bottles of water with them. Do people really think we don't have good water here? Or is it just a habit?

Our water comes from a private well. There are no additives; no chlorine or fluoride. There is no mineral or sulfur smell to our water. We test it monthly in the busy season as required by the town and the test results are consistently fine. The only thing we test slightly high for is sodium, which is not surprising considering our proximity to salt water. And even that is not something that would bother anyone unless they are on an extremely low sodium regime for some reason.

A couple of years ago we installed a water cooler with a hot water spigot in our dining room. We did it for our own convenience so that we don't have to put out a pitcher of water in the mornings (a pitcher that would have to be washed) and so that guests desiring a hot beverage in the evening could make one without us having to put out either an electric kettle or an insulated pitcher of hot water. Several guests have asked me if the cooler is there because our tap water is not good to drink and my guess is that quite a few more just make that assumption. Truly, that is not the reason. And if you want your water cold, all you have to do is let it run for a minute and it'll come out cold from the tap - another advantage of a well.

So I put the issue in your hands, folks. Leave the water bottles at the store. Bring ONE you can re-use and fill it from the tap. If you absolutely must, you can even refill it from the cooler. But help me out here. Those small plastic water bottles make up about 70% of my recyclables in the busy season. I shudder to think of what happens to the ones people bring to establishments that are less conscientious about recycling.


Deborah Blicher said...

As a frequent guest of the Inn, I'd like to mention that the water there is wonderful. Showering there for a weekend leaves my hair and skin renewed.

Moose said...

The person I've traveled back and forth to Boston-area with a few times now never goes on a long trip without getting at least a six-pack of bottled water. I've never understood why and frequently remind him he's insane. It's not like we drive non-stop; we stop at least twice for gas (he has a Saturn Vue, which has a tiny tank for a vehicle that gets ~25-30 mpg). And when we stop for gas if we're usually grabbing some food and the like, so why extra water?

On the one hand, I reuse plastic bottles again and again. I don't often buy soda in bottles (or soda at all, these days), but when I do that bottle is reused over and over.

That said, I've read that reusing plastic bottles is supposed to be a bad thing, health-wise, because (allegedly) you can get germies into the bottle by refilling it at a tap.

However, that's probably a myth created by the plastic bottle makers union.


GetAwayFromMe said...

nalgenes, man... nalgenes!

sure they may give you cancer, but you're HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT!