I was walking through a local grocery store when a strange white box caught my eye. “BOXED WATER IS BETTER,” it boasted. Keeping water bottles off grocery store shelves (and out of landfills) is a huge environmental goal, as they create an enormous amount of waste and aren’t necessarily better than the stuff that comes free out of your faucet. But are boxes another matter entirely? Could it be that a new shape and a new material might make it easier for people to stay hydrated and the planet to stay free of crumpled, flimsy bottles?
The company behind the bottles states that they can be flattened for effortless transportation, that the boxes are made of 76% renewable resources, and that they can be recycled in certain facilities. They also promise 10% of their profits to reforestation efforts, and another 10% to water relief efforts. While these promises sound like music to a thirsty consumer’s ears, the product still makes me wonder: why bother with the box at all?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to regulate the safety of ground and drinking water. While many claim to prefer the taste of bottled water, at-home filters can be purchased inexpensively to improve the taste of your tap. Some more pros and cons about bottled vs. tap can be found here. Reusable water bottles are everywhere these days, and much safer than plastic bottles not designed for re-use. Single use plastics, if not properly washed and dried between uses, may grow bacteria detrimental to human health.
Go reusable when possible, but if you do happen to find yourself dehydrated without your trusty reusable bottle, boxed water may be a realistic compromise that gives a little something back.
Read what TreeHugger has to say, as well as some more Green Ninja information on the energy is takes to package and transport bottled water.
When packing lunches or storing leftovers at home, reusable plastic containers can keep food fresh and reduce waste. Now, fast food corporations like KFC are using the same idea to offer a more reasonable and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable polystyrene.
Now, KFC will offer side dishes in microwaveable, dishwasher-safe plastic containers. After the meal is done, these containers don’t have to be tossed. The idea won them a Greener Package Award
. The awards are designed to recognize corporations taking steps to increase the “cleanliness” of their manufacturing. Other winners include Coca Cola for its 30% plant based bottle. This year, applicants were held to stricter standards that required submissions to “include verifiable data for at least one aspect of environmental impact: greenhouse gas reduction, sourcing metrics/impacts, end-of-life recovery metrics/impacts, life-cycle metrics/impacts, and/or social impacts.” While critics may still suggest that most companies are not doing nearly enough to reduce environmental impact of their packaging, these steps are certainly in the right direction.
Awareness of the negative effects of discarded fast food containers might help solve a bigger problem as well. Polystyrene, the material much fast food packaging is made of, is technically recyclable. However, it is time consuming and expensive to do so, and many waste management systems will not accept it. As a result, these light plastics have a tendency to litter roadsides and ultimately end up in landfills. In some places, strides are being made to reduce these undesirable consequences. A 2010 Seattle ordinance now requires that almost every piece of food packaging be compostable or recyclable.
Fast food may not be your first choice for an eco-friendly meal, but it’s unlikely to lose its place in the American diet any time soon. Smart moves by businesses like KFC suggest that big business may be starting to think more carefully about how their products affect the environment.