It may not be easy being Green, but being Greener isn’t such a stretch. Our situation is changing – rapidly. The rapacious, greedy powers who have held sway for so long are losing their demonic grip over us as more and more evidence emerges of planetary degradation. Earth, it turns out, is bio-degradable, and it is definitely bio-degrading.

Three different scenerios seem likely:

1) We get our act together in time and start managing our eco-system in a more enlightened way worldwide, saving mankind and the planet for future generations.

2) We wallow in our wastrel ways awhile longer and suffer a large enough eco-disaster to get everyone’s attention, which forces us to change just in time to save the planet.

3) We dawdle even longer and suffer an eco-catastrophe, which really gets everyone’s attention and forces us to change our ways … but too late to save the planet – or ourselves.

Being an optimist with a healthy streak of realism, I’m betting on #2.

One way or another, you can bet on this: We’re going to have to change our way of living.

So, where to start? A lot of us recycle, even though we don’t really know where it all goes or whether it’s doing any good. A lot of people are driving less. Some are ditching their SUVs in favor of hybrids. All very good and socially responsible moves. But more is clearly needed. What one change, then, could we all make that would have an impact?

Stop buying bottled water.

Three statistics from the latest Harper’s (Magazine) Index:

• Estimated amount of oil, in barrels, used to make the bottled-water containers sold in the U.S. last year: 16,000,000.

• Ratio of the amount of water used to make the containers to the amount of bottled water consumed: 2:1

• Average number of liters of bottled water delivered to U.S. troops in Iraq each day: 1,400,000

I don’t begrudge the troops – although that last stat is yet another good reason for not starting unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

Admittedly, there are times when bottled water comes in handy – long hikes, for instance. In general though – and especially at home – we need to go back to drinking tap water. Two problems with bottled water: Overuse of plastic and no guarantees that the bottled water you’re drinking is any healthier than what comes out of the tap.

Drinking bottled water is a symptom, I suspect, of our deep – and unhealthy – distrust of government. Personally, I’ll take my chances with government-regulated tap water over unregulated bottled water produced by large corporations with absolutely no concern for my safety. If you’re worried about lead, let the water run for 30 seconds as suggested. Use a water filter. Do whatever makes you feel more secure, but buying extra tons of non-biodegradable plastic each year is helping to ruin the planet.

According to an article in the New York Times last Sunday, the average American consumes 21 gallons or 79.5 liters of bottled water in a year. Approximately one gallon per American (i.e. 300 million gallons) is imported. The article also says that, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “the 43 million gallons of bottled water imported from the European Union into New York ports last year traveled 3,500 miles and created 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to 660 cars running for a year. About one million gallons came from Fiji, a distance of 8,000 miles, creating an additional 190 tons of CO2 (another 30 cars running).”

All of these eco-consequences result from our increasing demand for bottled water. To reduce the supply, we need to reduce the demand. The easiest thing everyone reading this can do for the environment is to significantly reduce the amount of bottled water you purchase each year. The second best thing to do is reduce the amount of plastic you use.

In the film The Graduate, the helpful family friend famously says to Dustin Hoffman’s character, “I have just one word for you: Plastic.”

I have just two words for you: Reduce plastic.

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