I was about to call it a night when Matt Damon caught my attention. He was on Letterman promoting True Grit. He was also promoting water.org. Damon’s pitch reminded me of meeting Sarah Holzgraf who said that bottled water in public offices is especially egregious because our government is supposed to ensure safe drinking water in the first place. Nevertheless, when former Minnesota State Representative Paul Gardner introduced a bill that packaged cost-savings and feel-good environmentalism in a tidy couple of sentences that discouraged state offices from providing bottled water, it didn't sell.
Sarah works for Corporate Accountability International, an organization that has taken on the absurdity of porting water in a country where it is piped directly into our homes and businesses, a luxury we completely take for granted while the poor elsewhere in the world literally walk miles and stand in line all day just to meet basic needs. I am embarrassed to say that when I met Sarah I was sipping on raspberry-flavored water, probably a Coca-Cola product. To compound the irony, I was perusing the exhibits at an event hosted by the Alliance for Sustainability where Richard Heinberg was speaking on climate change. In my defense, I got the water at a pre-event lunch with Heinberg. Besides coffee it was the only beverage available and my thirst overpowered my proclivity to protest.
Getting together a pitcher of water and a few glasses is not a challenge particular to the Alliance, which did put on a very nice event. Years before a similar scenario played itself out at a conference hosted by the DFL Progressive Caucus, which I chaired at the time. A nicely organized event was marred by the appearance of fun-size bottles of water that wouldn’t have satisfied a sparrow. Worse, lunch was packed in non-recyclable plastic shells, many of which went completely untouched and were presumably tossed out.
We must do better. The push for good public policy must come from somewhere and it can’t come from groups that do not take themselves seriously.
The annual Energy Fair of the Midwestern Renewable Energy Association is a shining example of what’s possible. The three-day event that attracts thousands of visitors essentially achieves zero-waste. All of the food vendor dishware is compostable if not durable and refillable. This could be the standard.
Let's begin by putting bottled water in its place and favoring our public water infrastructure that does not require expensive post-consumer management. It, not the Beverage Association, has made kings of us all and is worthy of our protection.