Battle of the Bottle
With all the emphasis on energy conservation and
reduction of carbon emissions, there are some
simple things we can all do to help, like turning out the
lights when we leave a room, lowering the
thermostats in the winter and raising them in the summer
and so forth.
Another simple change that will not in the least
impact our daily lives is simply to stop buying
drinking water in plastic bottles. First of all, there is
no evidence that bottled water is safer or
better for you than tap water. In fact, the converse may be
true. Some bottled water lacks the
fluoride that is added to drinking water to reduce
cavities, so you and your children might find
yourselves frequenting your dentist more often simply
because you switched to Evian or an off brand
from Pittsburgh. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn
of bottlers taking tap water from Baltimore,
giving it a fancy-sounding name and reselling it in
Pittsburgh and vice versa. Moreover, if we don't
depend on our local tap water, we might eventually lack the
diligence to assure that our local supply is
safe as well as plentiful.
The ecological issues are equally important. Bottled
water unnecessarily consumes plastic —
causing a needless source of litter and landfill while
consuming an estimated 17 million barrels of oil a
year to produce — and adds the energy costs of
transporting the bottle from where it is packaged to
where you and I consume it. Finally, you are paying through
the nose for an inferior product.
The Johns Hopkins President's Office is guilty as
charged, but effective immediately, we are
discontinuing bottled drinking water, eliminating
disposable plastic cups, plates and tableware, and
wherever possible going back to using reusable supplies to
serve snacks and drinks.
OK, it's not going to solve the oil crisis or
eliminate global warming, but it's a step.
I'm reminded of the story of the CEO of a very large
Fortune 100 company that had a shortfall
in its revenues, so the CEO initiated a series of
cost-saving measures. The first one: He eliminated the
use of expensive ballpoint pens, ordering instead the
cheapest models. One of his employees came up
to him and said, "But the cost of pens is minuscule. It
won't make any difference in our bottom line."
"Yes, I know," replied the CEO, "but this way, all of our
employees, including those in my office, will
know we are serious about saving money."
Please join me in generating a global movement to
eliminate the unnecessary use of plastic in
bottled water when tap water more than suffices. Let's show
the world we are serious.
William R. Brody is president
of The Johns Hopkins University.