Tuesday, October 10, 2006

IMPRINT: Is Nalgene all that Green?

We see them everywhere. At one time they were chiefly associated with tree-hugging hippies, but now have become such a craze that is seems like everyone has a Nalgene. The marketers of these popular water bottles definitely are good. They have undoubtedly become a campus staple. For some they are an extension of their identity covered with stickers and political quotes. Some girls seem to have a different colored bottle for every outfit! But is this a trend that should continue? Just how environmentally friendly is your Nalgene bottle?

Firstly, the process in which they are manufactured is resource-intensive and yields various nasty emissions that contribute to global warming and degradation of water quality. Nalgene bottles are made from non-renewable resources, and for all intents and purposes, it never biodegrades.

Secondly, most Nalgene bottles are made of #7 polycarbonate plastics or "Lexan". Since polycarbonate bottles don’t impart a taste to fluids, many assume they are safer than bottles made out of other kinds of plastic. But new scientific research has cast doubt on their safety. Lexan polycarbonate plastics contain an ingredient called bisphenol-A (BPA). According to Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and causes hormone related problems such as premature puberty and obesity. It can also be related to breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, and enlarged prostate glands (to name a few).
According to reports BPA leeching is more likely to occur when washed at high temperatures (such in a dishwasher), with strong washing solutions, or when placed in the sun. However, general wear and tear will break down your plastic bottle. The older they are, the worse the leeching gets.

If some of you decide to stop using your once beloved Nalgene, before you recycle it, reuse it. Recycling still takes a toll on the environment and certainly an unbreakable, waterproof container will be useful somehow.

After knowing what was just said and are comfortable continuing to use your Nalgene bottle, it is still a better option than purchasing bottled water. In Canada we have the luxury of clean tap water that comes from energy efficient infrastructures. Sadly, billions of people are not as fortunate. Despite the tie with purity and cleanliness, the amount of oil needed to manufacture and ship water in plastic bottles should outweigh your decision to purchase yet another case of Aberfoil Springs.

In most situations, you do not even need a virtually indestructible plastic water container. If you're at a desk, or in the kitchen, or even at spinning class, glass or ceramic vessels are fine. Other options include aluminum canteens such as a Sigg bottle. To be most sustainable, biodegradable choices are always best. These include leather wine skins (to give you that romantic Italian flare), or even something as natural as a dried out gourde with a cork can work too.

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