Disposable Water bottle – An Avoidable Nuisance

 Image: sustainablefootprints.org

Is it just me, or does anyone else find this a sheer waste of resources and an unnecessary strain on the planet?

Whenever I see these ads for disposable water bottles or any other bottled products, I think of the landfill and the millions of gallons of crude oil which went into manufacture, transportation and disposal (recycling or garbage trucks) of these plastic bottles.

Let us take the case of bottled water in particular. Call it mineral water, spring water or just plain bottled water, other than its name, it is no different from water boiled on a medium high for 20minutes. Arguments come up discussing pros and cons of boiling water and wasting fuel / energy etc. Come to think of it, our planet pays a heavy price to support our current lifestyle. The least we could do is to think of trade offs and make least destructive choices.

A very popular ad for a very prominent water filter products company provides statistics for the number of bottles ending up in a landfill after serving just a few sips. I quote ” 30 minutes in your hand and forever in the landfill”. Lets face it, disposable water bottles mean more garbage, which cannot bio-degrade for the next 10 million years. Every bit of plastic produced in the world is lurking in some corner of the world.

 Imagesource:athensboy.wordpress.com

Recycling?
Very learned friends of mine argue that they recycle, with out even understanding the basics of recycling. Recycling, even in the United States for that matter, is at its nascence. More than 85% of the plastic produced cannot be recycled. Turning one harmful plastic product into another and trying to stretch its “life” is no use. It is like committing an offence to cover up the first one.

Also, the entire process of recycling is a serious strain on the planet. Think about all the resources which go into the so-called process of recycling. I hate to say this, but I cannot understand the ignorance of people who claim they are eco-friendly because they recycle.

Hey! one question for you, cant you think of ways to avoid something if possible rather than leave a footprint?

Imagesource: banquetevent.com


Why the Industry needs you to be ignorant…
Bottled water is reported to be the fastest growing bottled beverage product for small and large players, worldwide.  If you are among those who are convinced that bottled water is better, then I have news for you. Most of the tap water available in the developed world is potable, and in the rest of the world, filtering it at home and boiling it for 20 minutes makes it safe.

Buying a bottle of any brand means diverting precious fossil fuels to this unsustainable industry. Not to forget the heavy environmental cost, added plastic to landfills and unwanted pressure on natural springs ( if in case it really is spring water). Adding to the already existing mess are innovation in the bottled water business – coloured water and “vitamin” water varieties.(That needs a separate post!)

More than 75% of water bottled by name brand beverage companies are sourced locally to minimize operational costs. Living in a city like Hyderabad, India if you thought you were being served fresh spring water from a spring in the Himalayas, you are in for a rude shock. Bottling companies actually filter and treat locally available ground or surface water and cannot afford to sell spring or mineral water (whatever their definition of mineral water is!). This applies to every brand /company operating from any location, world wide. 

Now what?
Given this fact, what I fail to understand is why does the very same population who swears by a bottle of store bought water have no qualms about gulping down gallons and gallons of soft drinks from a vending fountain. Do they assume that the soft drink doesn’t contain water at all or do they think that a soda fountain pumps out fresh spring water from the alpines?

Major soft drink manufacturers follow a standard processes and operational models to retail their wares. Cylinders and tanks containing concentrated “drink mixes” are shipped across dealer locations and those dealers and vendors mix in locally available water to bottle or fill in the dispensing machines. So it actually does not make any sense to buy bottled water and also buy soda (bottled or the dispensed ones)


In reality, bottled water is just plain tap water. EPA is more stringent about the quality tap water supplied across the USA when compared to rules applied to bottled water and products.

It is a sharp contrast to the fact that USA is the largest market for bottled water followed by Mexico and China. Loopholes in the law add to existing confusion regarding eco-friendly policies to be manufacturers and retailers. Also, laws applicable to bottled water manufacturing and supply vary by region. Legislation applicable in Australia are different from the ones in European Union or the USA making crusading againt this all the more difficult.

People don’t stop buying it because there is no one to revert these false notions created by bottling companies and their media partners. Bottled water is a major revenue generater for every soft beverage manufacturer in worldwide. For example, Pepsi owns Aquafina and Coke operates under the name “kindle” in India and “Dasani” here in the United States Bottled water sales is anywhere between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at the startling annual rate of 7 percent so would they kill their golden goose? Definitely not!

Then why this hoard to stock up crates of “bottled water”?

Image source: engineeringdaily.net

The answer lies in the minds of millions of mis-informed people who have been convinced that tap water filter by traditional methods is not safe for consumption. And now they believe that water is not good unless it is poured out of a stinky disposable bottle. One look at the labels or the bottled water ads; you will find deep, clear pools of spring water; majestic mountain peaks; healthy, active people gulping down chilled bottled water while biking in the park or in aerobic and  yoga classes. Impressive right…the ad gurus at work again…But what happens to our common sense when we see all this? goes for a toss.

But the reality is that tap water is actually held to more stringent quality standards than bottled water, and some brands of bottled water are just tap water in disguise. 

Do we really need this?

 Imagesource: greenbabyguide.com

Imagesource:thewere42.files.wordpress.com

 Did you know that a simple washed old cotton sari or a cotton cloth folded into eight is among the best water filter you an ever find? Refer to this article online: Study reveals sari cloth filtration reduces cholera. (Environmental Intelligence.

It pains to see pictures like these were women are forced to harvest rain water or walk miles for a pot of water. Imagesource: iwmai.cgiar.org

 Imagesource:bp.blogspot.com

Why isnt this fact being propagated in a nation somewhere in Africa or in Asian nations such as India, Bangladesh or Sri lanka? Simply because creating awareness would mean decrease in demand for bottled water. This non profitable means to provide better health to the larger population doesn’t end up in business growth, kick backs or pay backs of any kind to anyone. So why would they even work towards creating this awareness.

A new factory set up by Coke in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh or Gujarat means more money for the government. The fact that this very factory leads to depleting fertility levels, and a severe drop in ground water levels in the surrounding areas, means nothing to the decisio makers!

You can help ….For starters, If you are phobic about drinking tap water, you could buy a water filter/pitcher (a lesser evil when compared to bottled water).

 

Imagesource:muchinfo.com

Start making intelligent choices and live well…Let’s let the planet breath!

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Say No to PVC Yoga mats, Choose a straw or grass mat instead

Life is all about making right choices. One as simple as buying your yoga mat can make a difference on your carbon footprint. Do you know that a standard mat sold as being suitable for yoga is made of soft PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) a non earth friendly non bio degradable material. You must have noticed a strange stinky odour emanating out of a plastic mat, slipper or a bag for that matter. Imagine all the fumes this mat may be releasing into the air and its impact on air quality with in your house.Why force yourself to live that way when you can make smart eco-friendly choices?

Yogis and Sages in India were known to have used straw mats for meditation. In fact, using a Dharba grass mat is considered auspicious in hindu homes. With major changes in lifestyle and the increased need for a cushy support for our bottoms, yoga mats have become a must have. Off late, people seem to “need”  Yoga pants and  yoga mat for their sessions. Kudos to all the ad gurus!

Keeping in tune with the current trend, the best we could do is to make earth friendly choices. Opt for a grass, straw, Palmyra leaf, cane, sea grass or a banana fiber mat. Buying these you would not only make a green choice, you would also be promoting local handicrafts depending on where you live. I say this because, every culture has something to which is local to that region. For example, we have at least 20 different grass or straw mat varieties available in India alone:

The Pattamadai mats of thirnalveli in Tamil Naadu, India

beautiful Sitalpati (sheetal-cold) mats from Assam, India.

Image courtesy: craftsrevival.org

Madur mats from West Bengal

Courtesy: Flickr.com
Wagoo mats from Kashmir:
Image courtesy: kashmirphoto.com

and the coir mats from Kerala to name a few from with in india.

Image courtesy: Sapnainkerala’s blog.

If you were go International, Japanese Tatami mats need a special mention.

Image courtesy: japan-i.jp

Did you know that Japanese home design techniques make use of a tatami mat (ideally 6ft x 3ft- ideal human scale) mat to design their homes. This is measure between columns in a house.

  Image courtesy: abidini.com

Straw mats from korea are called whamunseok, deungmae, dotjari. The most popular mats in Korea are woven of split stalks of sedge or any other straw.

 Image courtesy: designboom.com

Banig sleeping mats from the Philippines, are made from locally abundant palm leaves, sear grass or pandan depending on the region of Philippines a mat comes from.

Image courtesy: tribo.org

 Across the oceans in the Americas, we have traditional handicraft options from say Ecuador,

Image courtesy: lextoland blog
 

We also have handicrafts from Peru, Cuba, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and not to miss hand woven mats/rug original to each of the 300+ native American tribes. Cattail mat being one of them. I am not quite sure if more than one tribe made these mats. You may click on cattail for more about it on wiki.

Image courtesy:  stoningtongallery.com

As I mentioned earlier, straw and plant handicrafts have had an intrinsic and important cultural meaning for every civilization across the world. Traditionally crafted  products are always eco-freindly. Why so? beause people dint have access to plastic back then!..lol.

Once you have made your choice of straw mat, just could walk into any local handicraft store to pick one for yourself. If these seem out of your budget, a simple cotton / jute durry will work well too.

Though not made of straw, this beautiful and authentic Navajo rug (Arizonian) could be a good choice for a yoga mat.

Image courtesy: endoftrailhomedecor.com

 A few other reliable options: Warangal durry, Andhra Pradesh India.

image courtesy: lepakshihandlooms.gov.in
 

Jamakalam from Tamil naadu

Image courtesy: izhai.tn.gov.in
Why buy a stinky plastic or a PVC mat,  when you have such wonderful options to choose from,. Make a wise choice, live well and take care…See you soon.

Plastics in your face scrub and body wash

The topic sounds nothing off beat considering the purpose of this blog…But this is a must read for every Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) user.

Picture this-

You are watching your favourite TV show and during the commercial break you see a young woman bathing herself under a gushing water fall, or in a river/ocean setting. The music, screenplay, the beautiful model and the claims made in this 30 seconds ad and you are impressed! The next time you are in a super market, you reach out to buy the very same body wash/scrub/face wash.

The ad agency has done its job right, makes money gets out of the picture. The cosmetics company manufactured the product, stocks it in the super market shelf and you buy it and they get their money worth or more in some cases and they move on.  And what do you end up with? a detergent based liquid full of sulfur compounds and artificial colours and flavours all in a glossy plastic bottle. You like it, you continue buying it; You hate it, you shift your choice. Sounds familiar? If yes, it is not just you but 9 out of 10 consumers fall under this category. Having heard this, are you shooing away the very idea of giving this whole thing a thought?

The next time you look at a face wash/scrub commercial and it claims to have micro granules that leave your face extra shiny, think again. There is nothing “micro granular” hidden in it. I was shocked as you are right now. Call me boring but I never dared to buy anything with micro things in anything, this one took me by surprise. Exfoliating ingredients in every brand name face wash or a body wash, is nothing but tiny particles of polyethylene which act as the “scrubbing particles” and wash down the drain and eventually into nearest water sources. Here is an image of all the micro beads in the wash (magnified)

image courtesy: link

  
These granules are very tiny so cannot be trapped or treated by a water treatment system. Hence, end up in our water sources – rivers, streams, oceans.

Stop and think about the impact that very consumer good had on your health or the environment?

It is really hard to ignore that every product we come across in the super market aisle has a drastic impact on the ecology. Before we take this issue with a pinch of salt, let us understand that these tiny particles do not bio-degrade, i.e., they cannot break down into their inital compounds and there by do not blend into our eco system. They get into the food chain and eventually onto our food plates. This includes the vegetarians.

Marine biologists have seen a major change in genetic patterns among sea creatures and the human population living near by. This could ony be th tip of an ice berg. I am not trying to get frantic about these scrubs or the micro beads they claim to carry, but what worries me is that we humans do not take the impact we cause on the environment.

What is alarming is the total annual sales quoted by these brand name products across the world. The statistics just don’t add up as these companies deny any :major” impact these products cause on the environment. They are busy filling their coffers. So let’s do our part and be aware as a consumer and think twice before we see ourselves experimenting with these products. Remember, every product you are trying is a statistic for the company and it is your approval/ vote as a consumer for the manufacturer to continuing production, supply, distribution and stocking. For them you are just a statistic. I am yet to find just one company which, might as well be a tiny part of the corporate world, but works and operates keeping every aspect of its social responsibility in mind. Are there any genuine corporate citizens out there?

A further research landed me with a set of brand name products who have been tested to use earth friendly ingredients. These products are expensive but are worth the money spent. I am not here to promote any particular brand or de-fame the “plastic” ones. It is just a small information I thought would be great to share. And i hope you, as a conscious consumer knows what you are doing. The research done in this area is taken seriously by the health and environment certifying agencies as the vested interests have made sure of staying clear of controversy. It is sad that there is very little acknowledgment about existing of this issue. But that is no reason for us to ignore what has come to our attention. Major cosmetic companies including Procter and Gamble, Aveeno, Clean & Clear, Clearasil, Neutrogena, L’Oréal and Dove produce facial scrubs that contain polyethylene plastic. And come to think of it they are the face of the cosmetic industry. If the list includes all of them, then it is for us to do our part.

This takes me back to the marketing basics learnt in Business School – Caveat emptor – BUYER BEWARE!

Green issues with Grocery Packaging

Monthly trip to the grocery store has become a huge guilt trip for me. All the plastic packets and sachets used for packing dal, rice, spices etc, have had me thinking and am desperately looking for solutions. I had worked a way out when I used to shop in India. I shopped whole sale, which meant that anything for my kitchen would come in jute bags or a bag i carried from home. If I bought it from a local General store, I used home made Newspaper bags.

I never buy ready to eat food and all my meals are made from scratch. This means less plastic/other packaging material to throw away, lesser waste and a guilt free shopping trip. Living in a Super Market driven environment is making green living more and more difficult. Customer centric grocery chains have increased general use of in-ending reams of plastic sheets.

I am still staunch about not buying bread, processed food in any form (raw or other wise). I bake my bread at home. However, shopping for other kitchen necessities is driving me to the wall. Less said about the milk cans, the better. I dont eat out much so I consciously avoid Styrofoam or even paper products. I buy fresh juice t an outlet once in a while and use my 24 oz water bottle instead of their Styrofoam cups/tumblers. My husband buys his occasional coffee in a steel coffee mug (thermos cup). I would love to leave as little carbon footprint as possible. My efforts are very conscious and the need to make green choices are next only to breathing for me. My self critical efforts continue and I am driven to find solutions to most of the day to day non-green choices I am forced to make.I am not here to whine or complain but I am looking at feasible solutions to reduce the non-biodegradable waste being thrown out by a typical family anywhere in the world.

The last few years have seen an increase in “super market” syndrome in India. Though I have nothing against the so called urbanization, I would definitely want people to look into associated “increased” waste generation. The tons and tons of plastic bags and even unneccesary bio-degradable garbage generated has taken over every nation in the last decade. What depresses me is that the amount of penetration such things have in our lives. It is going to take ages to wane out this trend. In the meanwhile, all the damage such choices cause is already at an unimaginable proportion and the impact is alarming. No offense meant but I still see 98% of the world population turning their backs against these on-the-face issues. My puny voice goes unheard even with my siblings. I don’t see this as a battle I want to WIN or LOOSE, but would want more number of people to believe in making green choices.

I wanted to put in a picture of my own for this post. In the mean while, I would love to share this wonderful cartoon I found online.

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