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Feb 092011

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

A waste of water, energy and taxpayer dollars.

That’s how a corporate watchdog group described Congress’  bottled water habit in a report released this week showing that the House of Representatives spent nearly a million dollars on bottled water last year.

In its report  Tapping Congress to Get Off The Bottle, Corporate Accountability International, suggests that this money could be saved if lawmakers made onetime investments in water fountains and water filters instead of buying bottled water year after year.
And once members and staff were back drinking economical tap water, they might pay closer attention to the needs of public water systems across the nation which face “a record investment gap of $22-23 billion per year,” according to the CAI, a non-profit watchdog group based in Boston.

Many mayors and governors have already curbed the use of bottled water by governments, not it’s Congress’ turn to join the movement toward a greener way.  That would cut down on plastic waste and the needless shipping and bottling costs of using bottled water, which other studies have shown is often just tap water, with a label.

“The energy used to produce and transport water bottles in the U.S. alone uses the energy equivalent of up to 54 million barrels of oil each year. That’s enough energy to fuel roughly three million cars for a year,” according to the report.

With regard to Congress, CAI’s study found that:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives spent at least $860,000 between April 2009 and March 2010, or an average of about $2,000 per member on bottled water.
  • 70 percent of the expenditures went to bottled water giant Nestlé, with most of the remaining amount going to two other major bottlers, DS Waters and Culligan.
  • These expenditures contradicted congressional initiatives aimed at “greening government practices and purchases”.

This spending could have been avoided, if members and their staff simply drank American tap water, which, despite its infrastructure needs, remains “a model to the rest of the world, providing safe and reliable drinking water to nearly every American.”

Nestle issued a response to the report, dismissing the expenditures by Congress (spending on bottled water by the Senate was not available).

“Some interest groups have advocated an end to bottled water products at state and municipal buildings and here on Capitol Hill, as if the mere act of turning from bottled water would solve the challenges they seek to address,” said Brian Flaherty, Nestle Waters’ vice president of government affairs, in a statement. Flaherty said that CAI’s claims fail to provide a “complete picture of  bottled water’s real environmental impact and its importance as a contributor to a healthy lifestyle.”

See this list to find out what your Representative spent on bottled water during the study period. (You’ll see that the Committee on Natural Resources spent $4,621 and the Committee on the Budget spent $5,380.)

Copyright © 2011 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Feb 042011

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Frugal meet frivolous. But the players are not who you think. Those Washington lawmakers wielding the budget ax — they’re the ones with the frivolous habit.

(Photo: GreenRightNow.com)

And it’s caught the eye of a frugal watchdog group, whose supporters are pushing back at members of the House of Representatives for wasting money on bottled water.

As non-green habits go, bottled water has become a difficult one to defend. Once we Americans thought we needed this purportedly healthier water. Then studies showed that most of the water being sold back to us came from the public tap. It was a marketing, not a health, success. And the whole process was a big energy drain. Bottled water takes an environmental toll at every juncture — when the bottle is made, filled, shipped and then discarded to the landfill. Furthermore, of all the many green changes we can make, this one is as easy as rediscovering your kitchen faucet.

Corporate Accountability International , a corporate responsibility group based in Boston, started the campaign, entitled “Tell the House of Representatives to Ditch Bottled Water and Save Taxpayer Dollars”. It’s being hosted by Change.org, which let’s people set up online campaigns for um, change.

The CAI had heard that the bottled water habit had so run amok among legislators that the House spent $190,000 on bottled water in the first quarter of 2010. (We’re still trying to double check this figure, because, wow, that’s a lot.)

If members’ consumption remained steady, it would take them only about 16 months to hit $1 million in bottled water costs.

Where’s the American Chemistry Council when we need them? These well-funded, pro-plastic lobbyists could pick up the tab to keep Congress supplied with bottled water and out of step with current trends. American taxpayers would be relieved of the tab.

It appears Americans might prefer a more permanent fix, though, because the Change.org campaign is becoming pretty popular. The number of people petitioning on this issue is approaching 50,000.

The CAI’s overview letter shows that the American people, if not their elected representatives, are pretty saavy about the economics:

“Bottled water is not safer or healthier than tap water, and often comes from the tap anyway. It can be up to 1,900 times more expensive, and the energy needed to produce the plastic is enough to fuel nearly 3 million cars for a year. Nearly one million tons of plastic water bottles are discarded as litter each year, ending up in landfills, lakes and streams.”

I’m not sure its 1,900 times more expensive, but it’s clearly more expensive. If it’s even 10 times more expensive, we should look for alternatives.

If the House needs to throw this money around, why not fix those aging pipes in need of repair in so many of our cities Then we could continue to use that vast, ingenious underground network developed to deliver safe drinking water to our homes.

Copyright © 2011 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network