Think Outside the Bottle

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My neighborhood coffee shop, housed in a historic red brick edifice on a shady intersection, no longer sells bottled water. The barista posted a small, handwritten sign explaining why:

Nina’s Coffee Café took the pledge to think outside the bottle and serve St. Paul’s finest tap water. Join us in this effort. Fill your own bottles at the watering hole.

Thank god, I say. Or more accurately: Thank you, café owner June Berkowitz. Inviting customers to drink their fill of free water is such a novel concept after decades of cafés, fast food joints, and movie theaters, when asked for “just water,” either handing over a tiny Dixie cup that lasts two gulps or making patrons pay for a disposable plastic bottle.

It will have to be a tandem effort between patrons and businesses if we are to break our dependence on bottled water, writes Peter Gleick in his book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water(Island Press, 2010):

An increasing number of restaurants have also been in the front lines of the campaign against bottled water, despite the fact that bottled water can be a significant source of revenue. Restaurants know that they can boost profits, and servers can boost tips, by making water another commodity. Yet more and more restaurateurs are shifting to encourage healthy foods and sustainable agriculture grown nearby–a campaign many call “local food.” Maybe it is time to launch a “local water” campaign as well to encourage consumers to turn away from bottled water and back toward local sources of supply.

I’ll leave it up to someone else to come up with the “local water” version of locavore, but in the meantime, a loud round of applause to Nina’s café for taking the tap water pledge, regardless of its effect on their bottom line. With plastic water bottles leaching cancer-causing toxins and being disposed of at a heart-stopping rate of 85 million bottles per day in the United States alone, I am thrilled to bring along my BPA-free, stainless steel bottle and fill it at your watering hole.

Source: Bottled and Sold

Image by Dan4th, licensed under Creative Commons.

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