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Last night I participated in a panel discussion at a cute little theatre in Asbury Park following a showing of the documentary film, “Tapped“. I’ve never been up on a stage under lights so bright that you couldn’t see anyone in the dark audience. Otherwise, I would have thanked the person who shouted out “REFUSE” during the program. Refusing bottled water and explaining why, is not a bad way to help turn back the bottled water invasion.

I have refused any number of things on the grounds of not wanting to be wasteful, but I hadn’t thought of it as an actual strategy that could be added to the existing three Rs until last night. I found this graphic where the three “Rs” had been expanded, so why not add another?
Reduce, Refuse, Recycle
My personal favorite is refusing the bottles of water already on the tables at my favorite restaurant. In stores, I sometimes have to refuse disposable bags numerous times during the check-out process, or they’ll put something in one. On Sunday, we were supposed to individually wrap some goodies for a bake sale at church – are you kidding? Today, of all days, they are selling bottled water at the middle school talent show. Time to say no, again.

This “R” has the potential to save both time and money as well as reducing waste. The challenge is in communicating the REFUSE in a persuasive way without getting people annoyed. I may have to work on that!

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The latest article in the Toxic Waters Series, “Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Foiling E.P. A.”, was published in the New York Times today.  This is stuff you really don’t want to know.  We all want to believe that current regulations protecting our water are adequate and that corporations wouldn’t dump pollutants that could harm our drinking water quality.  Unfortunately, neither is true.

There are an increasing number of Clean Water Act violations and at the same time fewer and fewer enforcement actions by the E.P.A.  The Clean Water Act has jurisdiction over all “navigable waters”, but the term was not clearly defined and it’s scope has been shrinking over the decades.  What we do know, is that pollution dumped into waterways does find its way into people’s drinking water via ground water migration and surface water movement.   Pollutants do not simply “stay put” nor do they just “disappear”. 

Congress needs to put aside its “Toxic Politics” and act to protect our drinking water from worsening levels of pollution.  Do we want to become solely reliant on ridiculously inefficient bottled water?  Tell your Senators and Representatives to support the Clean Water Restoration Act or you’ll vote them out in November!

By chance, I recieved two articles reporting on bottled water bans in schools today – one about a Catholic school board in Canada and another about universities in the United States.  The breadth of this bottled water backlash was impressive: both religious and secular, national and international, collegiate and primary/secondary, and coastal and heartland:  Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic School District in Ontario, Canada, Washington University, Brandeis University, Evergreen State College in Washington, and the University of Arkansas

This does not appear to be a regional fad that is going to fade.  Increasingly, educational institutions are joining municipalities in rejection of bottled water and the extreme wastefulness and disconnection from nature that it symbolizes.  Dramatic comments posted in opposition to these  bans show how polarizing the issue can be and have sparked the following insights from my year of dedication to this pursuit.

Bottled water may not be the gravest problem in our midst and banning it may not be the best approach, but getting people back to drinking tap water is an important positive step toward sustainable living.  It is essential for our survival on this planet to start questioning and changing our wasteful habits — drinking bottled water is just one small example of where we have gone wrong. It is an important but easy step people can take on the path to reducing their eco-footprints, but hardly the last. Once a person reduces their consumption of bottled water, they are likely to re-consider many of the other disposable convenience items they consume daily.

Most importantly, when we drink tap water, we are connnected with our environment. Suddenly, we are concerned about where our tap water comes from and what’s in it. We realize that we have to take care of our watershed because we are dependant on it. We tend to think we can live disconnected from nature or by conquering nature, but ultimately we can’t. Let’s get Back2Tap so that we consume fewer resources, reduce our waste and care for our watersheds.

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