Bottle vs Tap Water

Oregon Dept of Environmental Quality just published a reportLife Cycle Assessment of Drinking Water Delivery Systems: Bottled Water, Tap Water and Home/Office Delivery Water” that compares 48 different methods of delivering drinking water to consumers. It evaluates the  environmental effects across the entire life cycle of single-use, five-gallon reusable and tap water delivery method and determines the variables (recycling rates, recycled content, dishwasher use, transportation distance, water treatment, secondary packaging, to name just a few) that go into the lifecycle.

The conclusion is that tap water has lower environmental impacts than bottled water which we all assume anyway, but  the report views this question through the lens of “reduce, reuse, recycle”.  (The news release from Oregon DEQ has a nice summary of the report. As David Allaway from the Oregon DEQ says:

“We often hear people express some variation of bottled water is bad for the environment because most of the bottles go to the landfill – now we have specific evidence to support this theory. “While recycling water bottles is better than disposing of them, the overall environmental impacts of tap water are much lower than the impacts of drinking bottled water regardless of whether the bottles are 100% disposed or 100% recycled. EX: PET bottle, recycled at a rate of 100%, has greenhouse gas impacts 46 times higher than the “best case” tap water scenario the study evaluated.  Put differently, just because a packaging is recyclable (or recycled) doesn’t make it inherently “good for the environment”. The timeworn hierarchy of “prevent first, then recycle” makes good environmental sense.”

Paper or Plastic … or reusable

Do you give out bags with checked out items at the library? Plastic? Paper? Reusable with the library logo?  A recent article in the WSJ takes a look at the factors of all types of bags and provides some good data and explanations of paper vs plastic debate. here is the chart from the article that simplifies the concepts:


(a personal comment on resuable bags and forgetting them:  its just about making it a  habit, like remembering your wallet.  keeping one of the many bags we get free at library conferences in your car OR get a small one (like these!) to keep in your backpack or purse would make it easy too remember!)

Cloth Library Bags for Sale

I have been using cloth bags for grocery store shopping for years now. Not only do you get a discount for each one at many stores but they are sturdier and larger than plastic bags great for heavy items. And many stores (such as Whole Foods) are no longer using plastic bags at all, encouraging people to bring their own bags, backpacks, etc. As someone commented on my blog, Ireland since 2002, has been charging a 33 cent tax on plastic bags! Other countries like China are charging for use of plastic bags and Israel has a bill out right now for the same concept. San Francisco was the first us city to ban plastic bags last year with more of this trend to come I’m sure.

So why not try some marketing for your library and raise a little money in the process, by creating and selling cloth bags with your library’s logo on them. Most libraries have a company to buy “swag” from – check and see if they offer personalized cloth bags. Here is an example from janway.