Ya learn somethin’ everyday

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By Bev Ringenburg

Over the past month I’ve pretty much been confined to the couch because of foot surgery, which means I’ve had a bit more time to do some channel surfing and finally learned how to watch programs “On Demand” (I know, I’m way behind the times).  What I found was the Documentary Channel and what I watched were two pretty interesting documentary films called “Tapped” (produced in 2009) and “Bag-It” (produced in 2010).

In previous Conservation Corners I’ve written about plastic bags and plastic bottles and I thought I was reasonably well informed, but these two documentaries (which you can get on Amazon and probably Netflix if you don’t have On Demand) further opened my eyes.  Here’s a few facts that might tweak (not tweet) your interest to watch the films.

The “Tapped” documentary provided some eye-opening facts:

• Most bottled water is “manufactured” and distributed by big beverage companies like Pepsi and Coke with “eco-healthy” looking names that make us feel like we are getting something special.

• Unlike municipal water supplies that have strict standards and frequent quality control testing, bottled water is subject to no such regulation. 

• Much of the water we buy in the convenient plastic bottles is simply tap water from some municipality and we are paying over 2,000 times more for the same water that could be obtained from the tap (just Google cost of bottled water vs. tap water)

• And, not surprisingly, the real problem with bottled water is the plastic bottles themselves.  Not only are they made from oil (fossil fuel) in plants that spew toxic chemicals into the air and water causing health hazards and environmental pollution, but scientists have proven that chemicals which may be linked to cancer can leach from the plastic and show up in urine (there are still differing opinions on whether the concentrations are high enough to cause cancer though).

From the “Bag-It” documentary I was once again totally taken aback by the number of single-use disposable bags that are used every day in the country (greater than 1 billion/day) and the horrible pollution and significant environmental effects of “discarded” plastic around the world (only 1-2 percent actually get “recycled”).  Like all plastic, the bags are made from a highly valued, highly priced non-renewable resource (oil) and despite our best intentions, way too much plastic ends up in the wrong place.  Did you know that thousands of marine mammals and over a million birds die each year because of plastic pollution (by the way, you may not want to watch the videos if you don’t want to see dead animals with their entire gut full of plastic pieces) and that the United Nations Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean (often mistaken by marine life as food)?

The bottom line – like many countries around the world and several cities in the US that have banned single use plastic bags, we need to think long and hard about how much plastic we really need to use.  Now that Cedar Key’s water is okay, start filling up from the tap (if you’re not comfortable with this get a filter but stop buying expensive water in individual use plastic bottles) and, if you haven’t done it yet, please start using reusable grocery and shopping bags.  Watch the videos – you’ll become a believer – really!

Submitted by Bev Ringenberg. This column is a project of CK’s Energy Advisory Panel, which welcomes first-person accounts of how individuals are conserving (or, even, aspiring to conserve) our community’s natural resources. Your submission may be made via email (eileenlbowers@yahoo.com). Please include your full name and your phone number.