Thursday, August 14, 2008


Water, water, everywhere.......

On longer Nordic Walks we are encouraged to take a supply of fluid with us, particularly during the warmer months. Some walkers may opt for “isotonic” drinks, either commercially made or homemade to a personal recipe. However, I’m sure most of us will carry good old plain water.

In recent years, the plastic bottle of water has become ubiquitous and is now seen as an essential accessory of modern life. Whilst drinking water is a good habit, we have been sold a seductive image of bottled water being a key to health and well being. As a consequence, it is estimated that worldwide 154 billion litres of bottled water is consumed annually which generates revenue amounting to about £58 billion.

Given that most of the developed world has good quality water, this is yet another product we do not need. Furthermore, it is “environmental insanity”.

The energy and resources required to produce the millions of plastic bottles needed, plus the energy used in transporting bottled water around the world, gives us one of the most wasteful commodities we have. Furthermore, whilst the recycling of plastic waste is growing, it is still pitifully small with only 7% of plastic recycled in the UK and 5% in the US. Most goes to landfill, or ends up in the environment, and being non-biodegradable, it will persist for centuries.

Furthermore, doubt has been cast on the quality of the water product itself and there have been numerous reports which identify possible health risks. Phthalates, brominated flame retardants, bisephonol A and dioxins are just a few of the chemicals which have caused concern. Phthalates, for example, is a hazardous toxin often used in PVC and may be released when the plastic comes into contact with saliva. There are also a number of well documented cases of a number of manufacturers having to withdraw a product following the discovery of carcinogens in the drink. Remember Coca Cola’s ‘Dasani’ which was withdrawn in 2004.

So, I make a point of taking tap water on my Nordic Walks, rather than buying the bottled variety. I simply put a jug of water in the fridge, first thing in the morning, and a much cheaper and better option is available compared with the stuff which comes in plastic. As a matter of interest, I looked at the cost of plastic bottled water in the store attached to my local petrol station. The median price was £1.20 per litre, which is 6p more per litre than the unleaded petrol they sell! (this equates to 2.36 US Dollars per litre, or 1.52 Euros).

My own practice is to take tap water in my old reliable Swiss “Sigg” bottle (a good example above!). Granted, these are made from aluminium, but they are very long life and are readily recycled, if ever they do become punctured. It is my understanding that the internal surface is lined with a coating which is resistant to fruit acids or isotonic drinks and my own experience bears out the claim that the taste of water is not impaired. The only maintenance I have given mine is the occasional clean using a sterilising fluid (as for baby bottles) in order to keep things “sweet”. A further bonus is that Sigg is a member of the 1% For the Planet scheme where they give 1% of their annual net revenue to a variety of environmental organisations.

So, it makes good environmental and economic sense to “bottle your own”.
Malcolm Jarvis Nordic Walker Leeds UK

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