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How bottled water impacts the environment
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Chris Baskind talks about how bottled water became so popular.

Drinking bottled water often seems like a good option when you get a drink at work or stop at a gas station.

Well, not necessarily.

The value of bottled water is starting to come into question by those who consider themselves environmentally conscious. With large numbers of clear plastic bottles heading to the landfill, bottled-water drinkers now think about the petroleum used to make the bottles and the resources used to get the water to the consumer.

"About a quarter of the bottled water that's consumed worldwide has to cross a national border to get to a consumer - that's a lot - in the United States, which is the biggest bottled water consumer," said Chris Baskind, publisher of Lighterfootstep.com. "Bottled water accounts for about 2.7 million tons of plastic every year that's made from petroleum products, and worldwide it requires about 17 million barrels of oil each year.

"You could run 1 million cars a year on that."

Baskind added that disposal of water bottles also is an environmental issue.

"Just because a bottle is recyclable doesn't mean that it actually gets recycled," he said. "Only about 25 percent of plastic bottles that are marked for recycling end up getting recycled. The rest of them end up in landfills or in the environment."

Baskind is the author of the article "Five Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water" on Lighterfootstep.com, which is getting attention in some circles .

"It was one of the first mainstream articles to be critical of bottled water, and it's been quoted by a lot of sources ... I'm not sure how many times that article has been read - probably over 1 million times," he said. "I've always been interested in water issues. ... It's the foundation of public health, so water issues are something that are important to all environmentalists."

Rick Foote, Hall County's natural resource coordinator, said that he didn't want to take a stand on consumption of bottled water. But recycling them is easy, he said.

"As far as the water bottles themselves, we love to recycle them because there's no residue. They are very clean; they don't draw fruit flies or other vectors," he said. "The problem is getting them here, as with soda bottles and cans ... the majority of it probably goes to the landfills of any given material except for the cases of newspaper and corrugated (cardboard)."

The clear plastic bottles recycled in Hall County have one purpose, though.

"The name of the game is carpet - they go to polyester carpet manufacturers," said Foote, who added that the plastic bottles are sent to Summerville where carpet is produced.

Even though it is easy to recycle your bottle of water, there are ways to reduce your bottled water consumption - bottle your own.

"It's tough to beat the combination of a home water filter and a stainless steel bottle," Baskind said. "Stainless steel water bottles are completely recyclable, they are easy to clean, they are sanitary and they are not very expensive. (It's) pretty tough to beat, both for the economy and for the environment."

Keeping a stainless steel water bottle at your desk, in your car and at home can be an easy way to always have water with you and save you money, too.

"Bottled water is the biggest rip-off in the consumer environment right now," Baskind said. "Almost all municipal water in this country is perfectly safe. If you want better taste you can invest in a filter - anything from something as exotic as an under-sink filter to ones that you keep in your refrigerator."

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