Thursday, February 17, 2011

Student Ocean Advocates Battle Bottled Water

Clean Ocean Action has an awesome program for high school students in Monmouth and Ocean Counties called Student Ocean Advocates or SOA.  The students meet twice a month for five months and learn about current ocean threats and experience key advocacy techniques that can make a difference today and in the future.  

We are in the 5th year and this year’s Monmouth County SOA’s are working on reducing consumption of bottled water in their schools and communities.  What’s so bad about bottled water you might ask?  Well, for starters, bottled water is actually LESS regulated than tap water.  Tap water is tested for contaminants such as E. coli while bottled water is not.  Forty percent of bottled water is taken from municipal water sources (AKA Tap water) but you pay up to 1,900 times more for the bottle than you do for tap.  In addition, there are many environmental problems with packaging, shipping, and selling bottled water.  It takes 3 times the amount of water to produce the bottle as it does to fill it.  It also takes 3 fluid ounces of crude oil to produce one plastic bottle.  Seventeen million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles yearly, enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year!

So what does this have to do with the ocean?  Have you ever seen a plastic bottle or plastic pieces in the ocean or on the beach?  Plastic is the most prevalent form of litter.  The recycling rate of all plastics used in the U.S. is only 2-3%!  Only one in five bottles is recycled and the rest end up in landfills or the ocean.  And the problem is plastic does not biodegrade, it photo-degrades, meaning when exposed to the sun’s UV rays, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces but NEVER fully goes away.  Fish, birds, and other animals frequently mistake smaller pieces of plastic for food.  They accumulate more and more plastic until they starve to death.  Animals can also become entangled in plastic and can suffocate and drown.  One and a half million marine animals are killed every year due to plastic!

So what can you do?  One way to cut down on the plastic is by ditching the plastic water bottles.  Invest in a stainless steel reusable bottle and drink your good old fashion tap water.  Don’t like the way it tastes?  A filter system can do the trick and will save your money in the long run.  A family of four can save over $1,200 a year just by quitting bottled water!  By reducing bottled water consumption, you are decreasing the amount of plastics ending up in the ocean and reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burned.  Go you!

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