Bottled Water: The Real Cost of Convenience
by Karyn Maier, Managing Editor, 

If thereís one complaint every coach and assistant has itís how much time it takes to clean up the field after practice sessions and games. The biggest challenge isnít usually snack wrappers and other miscellaneous refuge either. Despite many fields being equipped with clearly labeled recycling containers, one item in particular seems to miss this mark with regularly, yet it can be found at every youth sports eventóthe plastic water bottle. 

An even worse scenario exists for those towns and cities where there may not be any recycling containers available where games are taking place. Needless to say, these errant plastic bottles are then destined for the garbage can first, followed by a trip to an already over-crowded landfill. 

 No one could argue that purchased bottled water isnít convenient. They chill in the fridge overnight and then fit snugly into our backpacks or travel neatly in cup holders in the family car on the way to game practice the next day. The problem is that weíll whet our whistles with about 28 billion polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of water this year alone, with about 80% of these never getting a second life from recycling. Instead, approximately 8 billion of these bottlesómade from petroleum, a non-renewable sourceówill be added to the 3.5 pounds of other waste material the average American produces each day. 

That bottle of water doesnít look so cool now, does it? If the above statistic alone doesnít raise your eyebrow, then consider the following: 

  • The drilling and burning of fossil fuel necessary in the manufacturing and transport of bottled water contributes to the level of harmful gases being released into the atmosphere and the impact on the global climate. In fact, approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil are used each year just to manufacture plastic water bottles, enough to fuel 100,000 cars for an entire year. 

  • Every bottle of water made and consumed in the US translates to about 10 gallons of fuel in transportation costs and 60 pounds of greenhouses gases being released into the environment.

  • The total energy consumed to process, transport and refrigerate bottled water in the US exceeds more than 50 barrels of oil, enough to operate 3 million cars for one year. 

  • Ironically, it requires two times the amount of water to manufacture PET bottles than it does to fill them for the market. 

By now youíre probably feeling like a small fish in a big pond in terms of reducing the environmental footprint your youth sports program may be contributing to. However, there are several simple things that you can do to help: 

  • Encourage the use of reusable bottles at games and practices. This single change can significantly reverse the negative impact plastic bottle consumption has on our economy and environment. 

  • If youíre concerned about the contents of your tap water (chlorine, etc.), install a water filter. Even a filtered water pitcher kept in the fridge can make a big difference. 

  • Keep in mind that any sports drinks come in PET bottles, not just water. So, when it comes to quenching the thirst of the entire team, use large water coolers and paper cups to dispense sports and energy drinks. 

  • Consider alternatives to water. Often, it isnít desirable to chug down a lot of water during practice or play. Slices of fresh fruit, such as watermelon, refresh and hydrate without the need to dispose of any container at all. 

  • Last, but not least, encourage a team effort when it comes to cleaning up after games and practice. Not only will this promote environmental stewardship from our youth, but will also make every water bottle rescued from the field for recycling a positive contribution toward our own health. 


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