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Teaching Tip: The Steep Price of Bottled Water

November 4, 2016
Indian fishermen pushed their boat through plastic waste last month in Mumbai.

Indian fishermen pushed their boat through plastic waste last month in Mumbai.

Almost all of our students are interested in and concerned about helping to save our planet. So when you cover the subject of Sustainability in Supplement 5, here are some facts that may lead to a lively discussion (from The New York Times–Nov. 1, 2016).

  1. For the first time, bottled water is expected to outsell soft drinks in the U.S. Some 49.4 billion bottles of water were sold here last year, and each is having an effect on the environment.
  2. More than 1/2 of Americans drink bottled water, despite the fact that tap water is free and is generally of very high quality.
  3. Producing a bottle of water uses about 2,000 times as much energy as producing an equivalent amount of tap water.
  4. Most bottles are thrown away after a single use. In the U.S., less than 1/3 are collected  for recycling, even though the plastic in bottles is easy and efficient to recycle. Most plastic waste makes it to recycling facilities or garbage dumps, but a lot ends up in our rivers and lakes.
  5. Eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year globally. (As much as 100 million tons of plastic is already floating there, with nearly 1/2 of that from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam).
  6. Environmentalists suggest cutting off the supply at the source now–through better recycling and drinking less bottled water.

In Supplement 5, we discuss sustainability as a matter of corporate social responsibility (CSR). But here is a fun 3-minute on-line quiz designed to measure an individual’s measure of bottled water consumption and social responsibility: nytimes.com/science.

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