As modern society becomes more environmentally conscious, we have made positive strides toward sustainable lifestyles—from using eco-friendly household products to conserving water and energy to recycling various materials. However, not everyone abides by these practices, opting for convenience over eco-friendliness.
This issue is especially problematic where water bottles are concerned. Due to their disposable and on-the-go design, these bottles often land in trash receptacles instead of recycle bins. Consequently, landfills become inundated with non-biodegradable waste, which then causes atmospheric pollution.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 50 million water bottles are dumped into landfills each year – averaging 140 million per day. Given this toxic threat to both the planet and our well-being, how can we, as savvy consumers, determine which types are least likely to increase the carbon footprint? Let’s analyze how a few popular types on the market measure up, in terms of being biodegradable and recyclable.
Although these single-use water bottles offer the advantage of portability for our fast-paced schedules, plastic is a rampant environmental hazard. This material contains petroleum, a nonrenewable resource that triggers widespread fossil fuel pollution across both developed areas and natural ecosystems.
About 80% of these bottles are discarded rather than recycled, and plastic takes 700 years to decompose, contaminating the air and oceans. Each plastic water bottle emits 120 grams of greenhouse gases upon entering a landfill. Moreover, these products cannot be reused because they leak the toxic chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA).
Made from polycarbonate, or hard plastic, these durable and long-lasting water bottles allow for multiple uses to promote sustainability while decreasing waste. However, like disposable plastic, this material also contains petroleum, meaning the oil needed to manufacture polycarbonate for our water bottles each year could power one million vehicles per year.
In addition, silicone water bottles exude potentially harmful levels of BPA which can provoke respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular, thyroid or reproductive issues. This synthetic compound also adversely impacts the development of freshwater habitats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Silicone is also non-recyclable, so if this product becomes damaged, it winds up in the landfill. Silicone solves the sustainability problem water bottles face, but not the biodegradable aspect.
While these highly resilient water bottles are among the most expensive options currently on the market, stainless steel’s sustainable framework is worth the investment. In fact, don’t be deterred by its price tag because this material has a long lifespan that withstands virtually unlimited usage—in addition to being dishwasher safe and recyclable.
Unlike the health risks associated with silicone and other polycarbonates, stainless steel is BPA-free and adheres to food-grade standards by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Just ensure the water bottle has been manufactured by an American company, because stainless steel produced overseas often contains noxious substances. Unlike either silicon or traditional plastic water bottles, stainless steel offers both sustainability and the potential for recycling – not to mention it’s one of the healthiest materials for water bottles!
Equally lightweight, yet more eco-friendly than plastic, these reusable water bottles are also more cost-effective alternatives to stainless steel. When lined with non-toxic epoxy resin, this material protects the consumer from harmful BPA exposure and meets the FDA requirements for safe, innocuous usage.
Another advantage of aluminum bottles is their recyclable composition which minimizes the threat of greenhouse gas emission. Those who choose this product as a substitute for single-use plastic bottles should be mindful that, when cleaned in a dishwasher or placed in extreme temperatures, the aluminum could release trace amounts of BPA.
Developed from an innovative and entirely “green” type of plastic, this BPA-free water bottle can not only be recycled, but stimulates bio-degradation as well. Upon entering a landfill, this material rapidly decomposes, converting into organic matter instead of contaminating the atmosphere. Therefore, even if the bottle is not recycled, its discarded remains will not exacerbate plastic pollution.
Alkame products also contain Ultra-Hydration water which is naturally formulated to balance the body’s pH levels, increase oxygenation, boost energy and elevate antioxidant absorption. These properties support optimal immune, metabolic, cardiovascular and respiratory functions. Overall, Alkame water bottles are beneficial for both the planet’s well-being and our own physical health.
These durable, long-last bottles have been serving us for decades – the first glass container was made about 1500 BC, although glass blowing wasn’t discovered until 37 BC. Modern glass is made from sand, soda ash, limestone and cullet – the industry term used to refer to furnace-ready recycled glass. These materials are heated to 2,600-2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and then molded into the desired shape.
Glass bottles have earned their “green” badge and rightfully so – they’re 100% recyclable! Perhaps the most sustainable and recyclable material available for water bottles, glass is also easy to keep sterile. To avoid breakage (and increase sustainability!), you can buy a silicone sleeve for your water bottle. Glass can be reused with a loss in quality or cleanness – something very few water bottles can do!
Research indicates the average American will use 167 water bottles on an annual basis, but only 38 will be recycled. Moreover, the energy expended through this nation’s annual water bottle consumption could power 190,000 households for a year.
In order to minimize these statistics, we should substitute our reliance on disposable water bottles for reusable alternatives manufactured with eco-friendly materials. Ultimately, this sustainable living initiative will promote an environmentally aware and globally responsible society.
Ted Rollins, of Greenville, SC, serves on the regional Environmental Defense Fund board. He has played an active role in regenerative practices globally as a board member of CLEAR, the Center for Living Environments. Throughout the years, Ted’s work has taken him across the US as a leading developer and manager of high-quality, purpose-built housing properties, with a focus on environmentally sustainable, multi-family housing. Follow Ted on LinkedIn.
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.