a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘drinking fountains’

Big Bad Bottles

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Have you broken your bottled water habit yet? Recent numbers regarding bottled water sales indicate that many people are returning to the tap and/or the tap with filters. Tap water contaminant levels are usually more closely regulated, but I agree that filtering is the best bet for health and the environment. New reports show a “surprising array” of contaminants in many brands of bottled water, including those exceeding set standards by the companies themselves. If you are currently relying on bottled water for daily consumption, the monetary cost of any filter is quickly offset by making the switch and the cost to your health is, well, “priceless”.

I miss drinking fountains and still don’t understand why the movement to bring them back is not bigger. It seems that it will decrease litter, pollution, energy use, fuel costs and ensure that the safety of tap water is kept a priority. Most of the time, we want or need just a few gulps to quench our immediate thirst, something the drinking fountain does without waste – I often find discarded water bottles half full or more.

Since bottled water is such a big environmental and health issue, I don’t want to touch the soda industry. EEK – eco-disaster right there, turning a healthy necessity like water into a sugar/chemical-laden mess. It’s not news that it is the most acidic beverage you can drink, it leaches calcium from bones, dissolves the enamel on teeth, and, while diet sodas remove sugar and calories, adds a toxic level of chemicals like methanol. Even Fox News reported in 2007, “Soda May Seriously Harm Health”.

Go stainless steel portable for your water needs out and about. There need be no exceptions. Did you know that you can send an EMPTY water bottle of any kind through security with other carry-ons at the airport? You can then fill it at a fountain before getting airborne.

Break the bottled habit. This one’s a no-brainer. Your world and your health deserves it.

Minneapolis – fountains of sustainability

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s good to be back. It spent time with my family and explored what’s new in my big city – one of those making significant strides towards a sustainable future. I’ve heard that the Twin Cities have held a high green ranking for decades and the city lakes, free of motorized boats, are some of the cleanest in the country. A stroll around a few busy spots will show you some of the most litter-free places on the planet. I saw street sweepers in the neighborhoods, doing the seasonal clean-up of curbside debris to keep it from entering the sewer system and waterways, my former local co-op is now solar-powered and stocks a wide selection of local farm products and I saw a few urban vegetable gardens where lawns used to be. A newish downtown Farmer’s Market is thriving. The city lakes and parks, populated by an abundance of cyclists and pedestrians, have been made more friendly for wildlife with natual rain gardens and flowering trees and plants. Out in the ‘burbs, a new light rail system is in place.

Last week’s NY Times column, by Elizabeth Royte, (author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It) also informed me that Minneapolis recently committed to spending $500,000 on drinking fountains that will be placed in areas of high foot and bicycle traffic. This is part of an effort (joined by San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom), to reduce bottle use – and the huge carbon footprint that goes along with it.

Now there’s another (like electric cars and electric hand-dryers) retro-solution to both plastic and water waste issues! Remember when most places had drinking fountains? They used to be in markets and department stores and in all parks. No cups, bottles or trash cans required. And it stands to reason that they conserve water, too. I’ve long wondered what happened to what used to be available to all – a cool, clean drink without the cost, waste and inconvenience of carrying a bottle. Germ-phobics can’t claim this one – fountains are designed so that the treated water coming from a spigot is safe. I shudder to think the bottled water industry had anything to do with the demise of the fountain, but then, what gives? More importantly, how can we reclaim a sane way to keep all of us quenched? I’ll be looking into this one – stay tuned.

BTW, thanks for the comments and thoughts about my mom. She is enjoying the Spring weather just arriving in MN. On the day I was leaving, we found a bird’s nest with 3 small eggs, hidden in a potted plant outside her front door. It made all of us smile. Nature has a nice way of speaking.

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