Margaret Fields, stewardship systems manager for The Nature Conservancy
By Margaret Fields
I'm reducing my carbon footprint in a very simple way these days: I carry a non-plastic reusable beverage container to long meetings, workshops and conferences.
You might think I'm not alone, by the number of people walking around with such containers. But by the end of a six-hour meeting, I'm always amazed at how full the trash can and recycling bin can get, mainly from plastic beverage containers.
And nothing on Earth breaks down traditional plastic. While some of these bottles can be recycled into new plastics, those that end up in landfills are here to stay.
According to a report from the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), sales of personal-size, one-use plastic water bottles increased more than 100 percent from 2002 to 2005.
But how many resources does it take to produce all those bottles? CRI's executive director Pat Franklin says that, in 2005, the manufacturing of 144 billion new beverage containers from raw materials consumed the energy equivalent of 53.5 million barrels of crude oil and produced approximately 4.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
There are new bio-plastics out on the market now, but they can still contain 40 percent petroleum-based products (unless they meet the ASTM Standard D6400-99 for compostable plastics).
And by avoiding polycarbonate water bottles (often known by the name "Nalgene," and identifiable by the number "7" within the recycling symbol on the bottle), I also avoid the controversy over whether these bottles can leak an environmental estrogen into the water they carry.
By bringing my own non-plastic reusable drink containers — like a Sigg water bottle made from aluminum — I can use the water fountain, reducing and reusing in the process.
And I don't have to wonder what kind of drinks will be provided!
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy.February 26, 2013