Did you ever wonder what the fabrication of a water bottle does to our environment? How far did it have to be transported to get to you? What about the chemicals that leach from those bottles into the water? Many people prefer to purchase bottled water, believing that it is somehow safer, but that is not always the case.

The National Geographic website states that it takes almost 17 million barrels of oil to produce the 30 billion water bottles that U.S. citizens buy in a year. “Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle,” the site observes.

It also takes more water to produce a bottle than the volume of water that will end up inside it. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Canadians consume more than two billion litres of bottled water a year, and globally, we consume about 190 billion litres a year. Unfortunately, more than 85 per cent of those bottles get tossed into the trash rather than the recycling bin.”

Pollution from plastics affects our water, land, and air. Many plastic bottles end up in landfills or get incinerated, and burning plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air. Plastic that stays on land or that is buried can take hundreds of years to break down, and even then, it doesn’t completely biodegrade.

Plastic actually photodegrades. This means that the sun just keeps breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces. The smallest pieces of plastic end up in the food chain where they are eaten by marine animals and birds, and too often, by us.

In order to help the environment, some people reuse water bottles. If you look at the bottom of a water bottle, there is a little triangle with the number 1 inside. That means that that bottle is only supposed to be used once. Chemicals, including Bisphenol A, leach into the water when the bottle is cleaned. Bisphenol A mimics estrogens (human female hormones) and has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers and childhood developmental problems. Other chemicals in plastics have also been shows to cause infertility and obesity.

To add insult to injury, many companies like Aquaflna and Dasani get their water from municipal supplies. All they do is filter it.

Many municipalities up North have good tap water. If you can, why not drink it? If you’re worried about chlorine, you can put water in a pitcher and let it stand overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate. You can also use a carbon-activated filter for your tap, or a Brita pitcher. In many areas of Montreal we have lead in our water from old, rusty pipes. A Brita filter solves that problem by getting rid of lead along with other chemicals.

If you usually have trouble with the water in your community, you might need more than a filter in order to drink your tap water safely. Some products, like chlorine tablets and special filters for travel and/or camping, can be used in the shorts term to get rid of giardia, bacteria, and viruses. Some filters come as part of a reusable water bottle. You can find them in travel stores and stores that carry camping equipment. You can also order them from websites like www.mec.ca.

If you’re planning to use a reusable plastic water bottle though, please make sure that the number in the little triangle at the bottom is a number 5, as any other number will give you the same problems a regular water bottle would. Aluminum or glass bottles are safer that way.

A popular home water filtering system can be found at www.gtawater.com. Be forewarned, though, they are expensive. They filter everything from the water in your shower to the water from your tap.

CBC Marketplace also gives a few choices of water purification systems:

— www.seychelle.com sells a system for about $40; works on any fresh water source; says it gets rid of Giardia, Cryptosporidium and E. Coli

— www.rainfresh.ca sells a system for about $200; packaging says it traps and kills bacteria and fecal coliforms, including E. Coli

— www.douton.ca sells for just over $300; says it eliminates 99.99 per cent of E. coli in water

If you have no way of getting access to safe drinking water in your municipality though, by all means, drink bottled water. Maybe you can choose a brand that is made closer to you. Eska water is made in Quebec and comes from a renewable source. It also tastes good. If your local store does not sell it, ask them to look into ordering it. Water costs almost as much as gasoline. If you don’t stop drinking bottled water for the environment, for your health, or for the future of our planet, you can do it to save money. Please think about it next time you consider buying bottled water.