Ditching Bottled Water to Go Green

Plastic containers and their transport foul the planet, some say.

ByABC News
July 6, 2007, 10:58 AM

July 8, 2007 — -- At the venerable Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., customers can indulge in baked quail, grilled squab and wines from around the world.

But if bottled water -- a fine-dining fixture -- is your libation of choice, you're out of luck.

"For us, it's about doing the right thing," said Chez Panisse general manager Michael Kossa-Rienzi, referring to the restaurant's recent decision to serve only filtered tap water.

Watch Eric Horng's report on the criticism of bottled water tonight on "World News." Check local listings for air time.

The eatery is joining a growing list of restaurants kicking the bottle for environmental reasons. And some city governments are getting into the act as well.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last month signed an executive order prohibiting city departments from buying bottled water, saying the move would save taxpayers money and be good for the planet.

"Each year, people are drinking 30 billion throwaway bottles of water," said the Sierra Club's Ruth Caplan. "If you put them end to end, it would go around the world more than 150 times."

Caplan said four out of five plastic water bottles end up in landfills, but even before they get there, they've taken a toll on the environment.

To get to a store shelf in Chicago, for instance, a bottle of water from France must first travel more than 5,000 miles on ships and in trucks. And because water is heavy, transporting it requires a lot of fuel.

ABC News crunched the numbers -- taking into account mileage and fuel requirements -- and found that even before you drink that one-liter (or a 33.8 ounce) bottle of French water in Chicago, you've already consumed roughly 2 ounces of oil. And that doesn't include the oil used to make the plastic.

In addition, the entire process -- bottling, packaging and shipping -- creates pollution and greenhouse gases.

"It's ironic that on some of the labels of the bottles, you see snow-capped mountains and glaciers when in fact the production of the bottle is contributing to global warming, which is melting those snowcaps and those glaciers," said Allen Hershkowitz at the Natural Resources Defense Council.