Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bottled Water is Evil

Buying bottled water in a country with safe drinking water like the US is pretty ridiculous. If you're traveling in India, okay fine. My solution has always been to carry a trusty and refillable (not to mention unbreakable) Nalgene bottle.

Bottled water is a symbol of wastefulness. To illustrate, here are ten interesting (and somewhat scary) facts about bottled water:
  1. An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle - sometimes further treated, sometimes not. –
  2. Drinking bottled water is 1000 (one thousand!) times more expensive than drinking tap water.
  3. In a study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test. –
  4. Bottling and shipping water is the least efficient method of water delivery ever invented. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. –
  5. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that making the plastic for water bottles [consumed annually] burns up something like 1.5 million barrels of oil, enough to power 100,000 cars for a year. –
  6. Nearly 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled. -
  7. Bottled water is actually much less regulated than tap water. There are a number of studies which found arsenic, disinfection byproducts and bacteria in bottled water. –, quoting Gina Solomon.
  8. 30 million water bottles are thrown away every day, and each one of them takes 1000 years to biodegrade. –
  9. In one case, bottled water labeled as "Alaska Premium Glacier Drinking Water: Pure Glacier Water from the Last Unpolluted Frontier" was actually drawn from Public Water System #111241 in Juneau. –
  10. Buying one gallon's worth of bottled water is three times more expensive than buying one gallon of gasoline. –

Okay, so if all that wasn't enough to convince you not to buy bottled water, consider that the shipping of bottled water burns A LOT of fossil fuels and results in the release of thousands of tons of harmful emissions. Not to mention the energy used to filter, process, and refrigerate.

What to do? Some tips for alternatives to buying bottled water :

  • If your tap water isn't ideal, get a filter for your tap or a Brita filter for your fridge.
  • Refill glass or durable plastic containers with filtered water.
  • For parties or events, use pitchers or water dispensers that you can use over and over again. Provide reusable cups instead of disposables, and if you must use disposables, get the recyclable ones.

World's Greenest Countries

Yale's Centre for Environmental Law and Policy just released the green ranking of 149 countries at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The environmental performance index was based on carbon and sulfur emissions, water purity and conservation practices.

The top ten: Switzerland was rated the world's greenest nation, followed by Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, France, Latvia, Costa Rica, Colombia and New Zealand.

Switzerland has a greenhouse-gas-efficient economy because of its use of hydroelectric power and its transport system, which relies more on trains than individual vehicles. So, wealthy countries seem to come out on top with more resources to devote to environmental protection and water quality. But, Costa Rica and Colombia show up in the top ten. Neither are rich countries, but I know from experience that Costa Rica for example, is taking environmental policy very seriously, demonstrating that good governance is as important as wealth.

No surprise then that the US is nowhere near the top; it ranks 39th. Australia with its coal based economy and high per capita emissions comes in at 46th. And the explosively developing nations of China and India come in at 105th and 120th, respectively.

Interestingly, the The World Economic Forum's competitiveness rankings actually correlate quite highly with Yale's Environmental Performance Index. So, in contrast to that old argument that environmental investment will cost the economy, this finding suggest that good environmental management equates to good business management. This correlation is not missed by many economists and investors who see the long term economic advantage of sustainability.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quotes o' the Day

I spend a LOT of my time thinking about change, mostly in the context of designing behaviour change programs that promote sustainable actions and choices amongst students and faculty within the university. In the course of this work, I've come upon a number of terrific quotes about the process of change and I thought some of you might be inspired by them, as I have been.

There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of success, than to step up as a leader in the introduction of change. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm support in those who might be better off under the new.
- Machiavelli

You can analyze the past but you have to design the future.
- Edward de Bono

To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.
- Raymond Williams

If you want to build a ship, don't gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare tools, assign tasks...Just call them together and raise in their minds a longing for the endless sea.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times…Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
- Clarissa Pinkola Estes

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi

If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.
- Chinese Proverb

Women are like tea bags - put them in hot water and they get stronger.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay that last one wasn't really about change, but I just like it!

Friday, January 11, 2008


Well, this is what happens when we don't check on the zucchinis frequently enough:

That's seven days of growth. I've already made zucchini muffins and two batches of zucchini fritters (savory pancakes). Unfortunately, it's too hot to bake or I'd be working on some zucchini chocolate cakes.

And here's a bean that escaped our eyes in the dense jungle:

Once the tomatoes start ripening we'll really be overwhelmed. We have about forty plants and they are all literally dripping with green fruits. At least we won't go hungry!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Three Laws of Pantry Dynamics

  1. Ingredients can be neither created nor destroyed.
  2. Ingredients used often continue to be used often; ingredients not used often continue to gather dust.
  3. One essential ingredient will always be missing from any given recipe thus requiring Brian to make a trip to the store.