Producing and transporting a single bottle of water:
- Uses 7.1 gallons of water
- Consumes .26 gallons of fossil fuels
- Produces 1.2 pounds of greenhouse gases
[ thewaterproject.org ]
What does my sister’s 70th birthday have to do with climate change? More than I ever expected.
I spent the past four days near Minneapolis celebrating my sister Dorothy’s birthday. I joined her and 17 other relatives to eat too much, take walks in the pleasant spring weather, sit in the sun on her deck, fall asleep on the couch mid-sentence, and then stay up until midnight catching up.
It was thirsty business, and water was our drink of choice. One of my sisters thoughtfully bought a case of bottled water at the grocery store – it was only $2 after all. Late that first evening after most people had gone off to bed, four of us siblings sat talking, and my sister offered us each a bottle. I declined, opting instead to refill my glass from the tap in the kitchen sink. And then I did something very unusual; I told my siblings why I made that choice.
In characteristic fashion, especially when I’ve avoided expressing an opinion on the topic for years, I blurted out that I thought bottled water was a silly waste of resources. Then I calmed down and recited some of the facts listed above. And I talked about our conversations at Seattle First Baptist, and about our conviction that each of us can do something and must do something about climate change.
I confessed that I believe the bottled water business is 99% marketing and 1% necessity. Sure, if I were staying in a fleabag hotel in Flint, Michigan, I’d prefer to buy my water at the corner store. When disaster strikes and sewage floods some municipal water system we need to fly in potable liquid. But when I am sitting in my sister’s living room with plentiful, good-tasting, safe water a few steps away, why should I reach for a bottle instead? Why drink water that has been processed, bottled, and shipped all over the planet first?
My siblings were surprisingly tolerant of my outburst, and even supportive. Our bottle-buying sister refilled hers in the kitchen the rest of the time we were together, and as I left for the airport I saw her case of water sitting in the corner of the kitchen with only a single bottle missing. Collectively over a long weekend we saved at least 163 gallons of water, 6 gallons of fossil fuels, and 28 pounds of greenhouse gases.
Did my outburst reverse climate change? No. But it helped. For me, it was a radical departure from past occasions when I remained silent about my distaste for bottled water. It also provided an opportunity for my family to talk seriously about climate change and its impact on the children and grandchildren looking down on us from the photos on the walls.
So what can we do? When we have a choice, just say “no” to bottled water. Talk about climate change with those we love. Work together to make decisions that are better for our planet. It makes a difference.
And check back on this website in the coming weeks for more ways that we can all make a difference regarding climate change, one decision at a time.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” ~ Edward Everett Hale