Archive for ‘Media’

February 2, 2012

Why We Shouldn’t Drink Bottled Water

I put “Tapped” on my Netflix cue over a year ago when I first read its brief description.  Bottled water is not good for the environment.  I knew that.  I also knew plastic causes cancer.  That’s probably why I put off watching this documentary.

Do not put off watching this documentary.  Watch it now.  And then tell all your friends to watch it.  Here is a preview:

First: Yes, “Tapped” is a one-sided documentary.  This is because the other side refused to interview for the film.

Okay, we got that out of the way.  The movie begins in rural Maine, where Poland Springs pumps Fryeburg’s municipal water into its bottles (Poland Springs is owned by Nestle, which owns Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestle Pure Life, Ozarka, and Zephyrhills as well).  According to the interviews, residents were not made aware that the bottling company had requested and received permits until they began pumping.

My first reaction to this was that it was not news to me.  Then they said that bottling companies are selling bottled water at 1,900 times the price they are paying for the raw material.  I knew it was a significant margin of profit, and obviously there are other overhead costs, but seriously: 1,900 times the price???

But I did have my doubts about this film still at this point.  I root for the little guy.  But in the pond of little guys, there are little guys and there are smaller little guys.  These residents of Fryeburg, Maine were coming together and fighting the water industry.  They had the support of resident Jim Wilfong, a former cabinet member of the Clinton Administration. The average household income is $54,000 a year (for an average of around 2.2 people per household).


In other words, the democratic system was on their side.  What surprised me is this: they are still losing.


And not only they are losing.  The film continues down the Eastern Seaboard to North Carolina and Georgia, where droughts are occurring at the same time as Coca Cola and Pepsi are quite literally pumping the wells dry.  Next the film turns to Corpus Cristi, Texas, where the oil refineries produce the plastics that become the bottles we drink out of.  And here the story really turned into the sad case of the weak being preyed upon by the mighty: people who purchased their homes years ago when they received local jobs (not necessarily at the refinery) are now sick with all kinds of ailments due to the harmful particles in the air produced by the refinery.  They cannot sell their homes, because no one will buy a home nowadays that is so close to an oil refinery.  They are sick, and they are stuck next to the thing that is making them sick.  It is an Erin Brokovich tale without a happy ending.



Until this point, I could see the average bottled water consumer’s response might be “Well, this doesn’t affect me.  It affects communities far far away from me.”  or “It won’t affect me for a very long time.”

Let me now share with you the film’s opening statistics:  over 75% of the Earth is covered in water but only 1% of it is drinkable.  By 2030 two out of three people will not have access to potable water.

That means, statistically speaking, in only seventeen years, the people sitting to the left and to the right of you will not have water.  Scratch that: YOU likely won’t have water.

Okay.  Now that we’ve clarified this, let’s go back to the 50-minute mark of the film.  We all by now likely know that BPA is bad for us.  Very very bad for us.  While individual water bottles don’t have BPA in them, the 5-gallon water cooler is made of BPA plastics.

Let’s go back to that opening statistic again: likely your place of work has a water cooler. It is also likely that it is filled with a BPA 5-gallon jug.  Is this water potable? Although the FDA and EPA standards say that those jugs are safe (based off of 2 industry-funded studies reported to them for analysis), there are over 200 independently published, peer-reviewed studies raising concerns about BPA.  One study has indicated that even incredibly minor amounts of BPA can substantially damage human organ development and reproductive system. Potable water?  I think not.

Lastly, let me briefly touch on their discussion of waste, because it’s what gave the producers the idea to make this movie.  I want to talk about this in more detail on the blog here, but here’s a start.

There are trash pits all over our world’s oceans.  Two in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic, one in the Indian Ocean.  There are likely similar gyres in every ocean in the world.  Captain Charles Moore’s tests of water in the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch showed in 1999 that there was 6 times as much plastic in the waters as plankton (which feeds marine life).  In 2008, there was 46 times as much plastic.   That is almost 8 times as much plastic accumulating in our ocean in only 9 years.



If you’ve made it this far, and you only remember one thing from this blog post that reads more like an activist platform than an informative post, remember this quote from Captain Charles Moore standing on plastic-strewn Kamilo Beach in Hawaii, where trash is washed up by the currents:

“Eliminating the scourge of bottled water will eliminate one of the biggest environmental problems that we face.”

It’s that simple. We can’t undo the damage that is done, but we can stop more from happening.  This isn’t global warming where the cause and effects are murky.  The solution is right in front of us: stop using bottled water.

Recycling is not enough.  Only 50% of Americans have curbside recycling, and in the US only 1/3 of the 80 million bottles used daily are recycled.

So here’s the takeaway for you: don’t drink bottled water except in disaster situations and when there is no otherwise safe water to drink.  Drink your tap water. Filter it if you need to.  Bottled water and the industries it supports (ahem – oil – ahem) do not only hurt your health, it hurts the health of your environment, the world’s environment, your municipal works, and your own access to safe, potable tap water.


For more information on the film “Tapped” visit:   This is an independent review not supported, requested, or sponsored by the film or its affiliates.

November 3, 2008

November 4th Election Parties

I know I haven’t posted in a very long while, and I’m sorry.  I promise I will come back to posting regularly soon. However, something a bit more important is on my mind right now:

Perhaps this goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway: Tomorrow is a major day for the US, and the world.  It will decide what the next four years, or maybe even eight years, will look like in the US government.  Repercussions from tomorrow’s results could last decades beyond this.  Anyone who can vote in the US has a responsibility to do so – it’s the only way a democracy can function!

In times when situations become heavy, when the idea of the results going the way you don’t want them seems too much to bear, when we’re all incredibly anxious with butterflies in our tummies, many people find it nice to be around others, and to eat good food.  So I’ve decided to start a quick poll, see what people are doing tomorrow night.  It came out of the fact that two of my coworkers are attending election parties and they and their hosts have been designing menus to reflect the tastes of Barack Obama, as well as the color of his party (blue!). Menu items include: chili (apparently Obama’s favorite food), Pabst Blue Ribbon, food from Rick Bayless’ show and Frontera restaurant (apparently Obama’s favorite restaurant), and more.

I for one have class tomorrow night so I will be at the university until 9pm, and then I will probably go home and huddle in front of my computer with my roommates until I can’t bear it anymore or fall asleep, whichever comes first.  Food wise, I’m probably going to stick to homemade applesauce and whatever else I can dig up from my pantry.

I’m curious to see what others are doing for food on Election Night?

Please, post your answers in the comments below:

1) Are you going to or hosting an election party?

2) If so, what are you eating?

P.S.  And please – Vote Obama!

April 14, 2008

Mango Madness

In her comment on my post on Farmers’ Markets, my sister mentioned her concern about fruit being sent very lengthy distances. She lives in Japan, where this winter apparently bumper crops of Florida grapefruit were imported and sold relatively cheaply (the Japanese fruit market is very expensive). She said they were delicious, but was worried about the carbon footprint of these gems. She asked me what other detrimental effects produce exports have in the world. I couldn’t really give her an answer right away, but somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice cried out: “Mangoes!”

March 9, 2008

Farmer’s Markets



An interesting article was printed in today’s Los Angeles Times about the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. It’s probably one of the most important community markets in the US, one which many other markets nationwide try to emulate. However, this latest trend doesn’t seem like something that should be emulated. Or should it?

When the market opened in in 1981 it was a lifesaver for small farmers in the area. They were finally able to bring their fresh produce to a centralized place and sell it directly to the consumer, eliminating the middle-man. When chefs caught on with the idea, some home cooks seemed to grumble, saying that the best vegetables were going to those buying large quantities, and they were left with the extras. Over the years the two groups have found a way to coexist, and some even swap recipes and tips on how to serve up all the delicacies like stinging nettles and green garlic that are included in the market’s cornucopia. Now, the chefs have their own competition to contend with.

March 3, 2008

The Atlantic and the American Idea


Image by Michael Hunt

This doesn’t have much to do with food, and for that I apologize. However, food and culture (as I hope you’ve noticed on my blog) go hand in hand. My weekend has been centered around research on meatpacking in Chicago and the German-American subculture in the late 19th century (more on that later), and I’ve realized how much we as Americans look forward, and hardly look back. How many (even highly educated) people on the street could spout out the dates of our Civil War, or our year of independence? Granted, some people may claim these are simply dates, but no matter how much we disagree with current politics, these dates allow us to be who we are today. It allows one of my friends to work in a think tank and travel to China, it allows another friend to go on business trips all over the country, and, the purpose of this post, it allows my friend Heather to live in Germany and get published for writing about her interpretation – even critique – of the American Idea.

Heather and I met last year during our Fulbright year, in the parking lot of a monastery-turned Catholic youth retreat thirty kilometers outside of Cologne.