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The Relative Merits of Plastic Bottles and Concrete Slabs
Chris Turner, 29 Apr 09

287835581_576077b773_280.jpgThe other day, I found myself preaching to the choir out in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser for the Ecology Action Centre, a longstanding and highly regarded environmental organization with deep roots in the region. The event drew a good-sized crowd, and the usual suspects – hardcore environmentalists, activists, academics, the odd self-interested local politician – formed the bulk of it. I’m sure you could find a similar crowd in any good-sized North American city, which is why the two most significant memes I encountered at this talk strike me as having broad significance to the sustainability movement in general.

Let’s start with the first meme, which sported what I think of as an outdated shade of green. I was returning from the washroom to the auditorium shortly before my talk, and a young woman milling near the entrance pointed at the Dasani water bottle I was clutching in my hand and said something like, You’re not really bringing that to an environmental lecture, are you? I shrugged and explained it was all they had at the event’s temporary bar, and I needed something to keep my throat wet through all that talking. At which point it dawned on her that I was the speaker that evening, and she got sort of embarrassed and mildly apologetic.

I partially conceded her point – I’d have chosen a reusable glass of tap water if it’d been available, after all – and she sort of conceded mine, though I could tell she’d have held her ideological ground if I’d been anything less than the evening’s main act. What I mean is, I think from her point of view she was letting me get away with it. Dasani bottles still had no business at events like these, but if anyone could be forgiven, maybe the speaker could.

The topic came up again after my presentation, during the Q&A. A different young woman, the same pointed question, asked this time in front of the whole audience: How could you possibly deliver an hour-long presentation on sustainability with a plastic water bottle resting there on the podium next to your notes? She was angrier than my first anti-plastic interrogator; I could tell she was a little apprehensive to rain on my positive-solutions parade, but clearly the Dasani-logoed bottle so completely equated in her mind to the very essence of the problem that it couldn’t pass without comment.

I’ll come to my response in a minute. But first let me tell you the other significant meme I encountered at this event – the one coloured bright green.

The book-signing line after my lecture was a pretty standard cross-section of the sort of people who not only attend talks like mine but approach the speaker afterward to hand over a business card or brochure. There were green-energy advocates, Kyoto petitioners, local-food organizers, semi-coherent defenders and demonizers of nuclear power. And one gentleman who slid me a business card identifying himself as Robert Niven, president of Carbon Sense Solutions. He mentioned a mutual friend and said I should try to make time see what his young company was doing with concrete before I headed home.

A couple days later, I drove out to an industrial park near the airport to see what he was talking about. I found Robert in a small office building on the fringe of a vast field of concrete apparatus – great stacks of drainage pipe, piles of industrial-sized brick, mammoth slabs used to build bridges and overpasses. Carbon Sense Solutions had only recently emerged from a lab at McGill University in Montreal, and it was now nested on the premises of a company called the Shaw Group – your standard regional concrete manufacturing giant.

Robert noted by way of introduction that cement and concrete production constitute the planet’s third largest source of carbon dioxide emissions after energy production and transportation, and then he explained at length what he intended to do about that. I realized within minutes that although I trod upon concrete every day of my life, I’d never once thought about where it came from or how it was made. Turns out that the production of cement (one of the constituent ingredients in concrete) involves cooking limestone in a kiln at nearly 1000 degrees, a process called “calcination” hat requires an enormous amount of energy to carry out and releases vast stores of carbon dioxide from the limestone itself in the process. As much as two-thirds of the emissions created by concrete production are generated by calcination, with the rest contributed by the kiln’s fuel.

The concrete industry, Robert explained, had been focused on the latter problem for years, greatly increasing the efficiency of its energy use – mainly for baseline economic reasons. Much less thought, however, had been paid to the emissions created by calcination. Which is where Carbon Sense comes in.

To produce concrete, cement is mixed with water and gravel and then cured; in large industrial facilities, the curing agent is traditionally steam. Robert’s company is working on a new industrial process by which the waste emissions of the cement production process would be injected back into the concrete as the curing agent – essentially reconstituting the limestone and re-capturing the carbon dioxide (amounting to a total emissions reduction by as much as 50 percent compared to the current industry norm).

This was still in test phase, but Robert didn’t need to spell out for me how enormous the potential was. I live a life practically encased in concrete. We all do. To turn modernity’s most ubiquitous building material into a sequestration project that could quickly and easily span the globe? And to do so through a straightforward, technically simple retrofit of existing plants? I left in a state of quiet awe – not something I ever expected to happen to me at a concrete factory.

Which brings me back to the plastic-bottle meme I’d encountered at my talk, and the distance between that question and the Carbon Sense approach to solving the climate problem. When I was asked about the water bottle at the lecture, I answered mostly in general terms. The scope of the climate crisis, I said, was so huge that it can only be solved by a society-wide shift, a total shift. Either everything changes – and does so within a generation, give or take – or as far as the biosphere’s concerned it’ll be as if nothing has. The only question, then, is how best to create that universal change.

My response was to suggest that such a broad shift in human behaviour in such a short time would by necessity make for strange bedfellows and imperfect optics. Some of the people (maybe even the most important ones) creating that change will have different priorities and different fundamental values from those of old-school environmentalism. To cite an example, I talked about how Wal-Mart’s sustainability push might ultimately be more significant than anything going on down at the local organic co-op. After my visit to the concrete factory, I had a better case in point.

My use of a plastic water bottle to keep hydrated during my lecture was personal, symbolic, highly visible and statistically meaningless; Carbon Sense’s attempt to turn the world’s concrete factories into carbon sinks is universal, practical, invisible and statistically huge.

The water bottle was a gesture, a sort of purity ritual, a thing built to the same scale as a protest placard. The underlying assumption is that if enough of us foreswear plastic, the planet will in time return to the same balance it maintained before we ever started cracking oil molecules to build polymer chains and wrap them around practically everything we use on a daily basis.

The carbon-sequestering concrete initiative is less righteous but more fundamental in its impact. It recognizes that whatever comes of this shift to sustainability, it is not a return to any previous norm, pre-industrial or otherwise. And it recognizes, moreover, that the scope of the problem is the size of the biosphere itself, and by necessity it must include not just the meetings of the tuned in and turned on but also the concrete poured to erect the buildings those meetings are held in.

That’s all the concrete we pour, by the way, from here to Timbuktu, from the organic co-op to the new exurban Wal-Mart. Much as we’d also like to see the end of exurban big-box development altogether, it’s likely – strange bedfellows again – that more than a few will be built before we’re all aboard the new paradigm, and so at the very least we can reduce the carbon footprint of their building materials in the meantime. And the larger point remains that we’ll make that larger shift not just because we make public gestures against plastic bottles but also – mainly – because some whipsmart engineers figure out how to turn concrete into a carbon sink.

Read more on concrete in the Worldchanging archive:
Concrete: a 'Burning' Issue
Reinventing Concrete
Bendable Concrete
Does Carbon-Eating Cement Deserve The Hype?

Chris Turner is the author of The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need, a global tour of the state of the art in sustainable living. He lives in Calgary. He keeps a poorly maintained blog and can be reached by email at cturner [at] globeandmail [dot] com.

Editor's note: This post was edited and updated by the author on May 4, 2009.

Photo credit: flickr/santanartist, Creative Commons license.

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This is an amazing article and I hope more people read it. I think the most important point (or at least the point that most resonates with me) is the idea of statistically relevant actions.

Most of the green actions that people tout like reusable water bottles and grocery bags are nice symbolic actions that promote a different way of thinking. They are however a drop in the bucket in contrast to transportation and energy use. We have to stop thinking that we can fix the planet by convincing people to make small individual choices (this can be a part of the solution but it can’t be the driving force). Instead, we need to look at changing the systemic problems in infrastructure and energy. The example of concrete is quite apt, its something that we take for granted but that represents a huge carbon source. Creating a solution to concrete would be largely invisible but would be a immensely more important than people switching away from bottled water.

Posted by: Eniryt Manaen on 30 Apr 09

I don't think you take account of the importance of symbolism for human beings, Craig. There is a reason for rites, for gestures that aren't statistically important.

It sounds as if you may be a victim to the delusion of the technofix - that offstage, clever engineering types will solve our problems and we can go on with our life BAU.

I agree with you that "broad shifts in human behavior" are coming and are necessary. But historically, how do these shifts occur? They only happen after massive subterranean shifts in values and attitudes.

The significance of the water bottle is that this behavior was under your control. If you say that it is "statistically irrelevant," then you are approving the same argument being used by anyone else who resists change.

As a speaker, you are modeling behavior that others are going to follow, so you have a special responsibility. Just like a parent who is caught by his kids in a small act of hypocrisy. It's painful and embarrassing, but if one fesses up to it, it's no big deal.

I think you were closer to the truth when you said that in this period we will see strange bedfellows, and it's important not to get too righteous about small things.

In your situation (and I have been), I might say something like, "You're right. I don't like to support the use of plastic bottles, but I was in a hurry to get some water before I spoke and this was all that was available."

This could lead to a discussion about how the design of public spaces can make it hard to avoid waste, and what might be done about it. Such a discussion could lead to solutions which WOULD be statistically significant.

Bart Anderson

Posted by: Bart Anderson on 30 Apr 09

The marketing types would describe your bottle critics as early adopters. And like early adopters every where they can become fan boys or girls. Another feature of early adopters is that they strongly identify with their "product" and it becomes part of their identity. Marketers have long been able to create intense brand loyalty just ask a Mac user, a sports fan or strike up a conversation about car brands. One important feature about that loyalty is brand awareness. It has to stand out even if it is really no different inside. That is why the Prius sold so well and the Fit did not. About the same mileage so why buy th emore expensive car? Because it is different and has a brand. For a house which is the best green choice; new windows, PV roof panels or insulation. From an energy saved per dollar spent or carbon reduction standpoint it is usually a no brainer, insulation. But if you want people to know how green you are you have your Prius parked outside your PV house. I'll leave it to others to decide if green status symbols help or hurt our efforts.

Posted by: Scott on 30 Apr 09

I fear Plastics are "scapegoat". Energy you cannot see.
(sorry for my bad English)

Posted by: Manuel Simao on 1 May 09

Interresting article. I have to say I was a bit conscerned at first, but I understand the big-picture point you are trying to make (Chris). Although it did sound more like an emotional reaction then an intellectual position. You know that small things matter. We all slip up from time to time, and I'm sure being such a public figure your slip-ups are much more apparent.

I was talking to a colleague the other day about his flight in to a sustainability conference, and he said, "yha, I pulled a Suzuki!" It is hard to weigh the good of our actions against the bad. And it's very easy to take a postition of moral or individual superiority by placing lables on movements or people.

There is a difference in perspectives and approaches (and shades) in the 'Green Meme' and hopefully we can move forward into the next, more enlightened state together, and en-mass, but we cannot and will not integrate a sucessful transition if we forget to INCLUDE before we can TRANSCEND to the next. This is from interal theory Chris, which I'm sure you are familiar with.

If we commit to a significantly bright-green perspective, we must do so through the respect for and integration of other perspectives that came before. There is no moving ahead by excluding the past, or other segments of the 'meme' (even if we don't like them, or they ask us irritating questions). As leaders we must be all things, and more, pushing the edge of what is possible. It is a challenge, but it is worthwhile.

As a teacher of sustainability education in high schools I am constantly put on the spot by youth testing my commitment to the cause (I am not an English teacher so please forgive any spelling errors!) The best response is always an opportunity for learning; I really appreciate Bart's comments above.

Sometimes I feel like the only difference between a modern perspective and an integral perspective is the ability to find space to include the "crazy" post-modern perspective. If we don't find the space to include anything post-modern, we are effectively slipping back into the scientific positivism of modernity.


Posted by: Amy on 1 May 09

Please do not undermine small, individual actions to help the environment. Everyone is not a scientist or engineer - but everyone is a consumer. When we shift our dollars, we shift the way corporations do business. Of course we need innovation and big solutions, but when people adopt the small changes, it opens the way for momentum to shift and for them to accept the larger changes as well.

This is a movement that needs to include and empower every individual to make a difference. Nothing is meaningless - statistically or otherwise.

You should have been the one that was embarrassed and apologetic for not being more prepared or resourceful enough to find a reusable container, for setting a poor example, and then turning around and accusing those who take personal responsibility for their actions as naïve and outdated.

Posted by: Beth Remmes on 2 May 09

Carbon Sense Solutions certainly is going somewhere that I intend to be.It is too bad the public can ill afford to invest in common shares,(money and trust are scarce) and boycott cement produced "the old way" or can they?
To tie in your plastic bottle I'd say ah yes the the public can afford to invest in CSS,don't buy bottled water. Could the drivers those who then loose their job,work for CSS,yes ,I believe they could.
When this moment is past will your dollar bottle of water have been invested in CSS ?
Them and us is how things are.

Posted by: Ed Peters on 2 May 09

I think most of us can see both sides of the argument here: Yes we need the universal, practical, and statistically huge AND we need the personal, highly visible and symbolic. It's not an either-or. It's both.
But what really strikes me about this article (and I am glad you wrote it Chris) is that as environmentalists we live in a culture of attacks. We are so used to attacking and getting attacked that it forms a solid backdrop to our interactions. You were attacked at your talk by two young women, and then you go and write this article which is [or at least is being read as] an attack on the importance of the small/personal. I've been very sad to watch a lot of this attacking between environmentalists as part of the current BC provincial election. I don't know that it does us many favourts.
Is there a way that we can have a healthy debate about these issues within the environmental movement without undermining the importance of each others' views?

Posted by: Aftab Erfan on 2 May 09

I've got to say that I'm with Bart & Aftab.

This is a great article, and I see what you're getting at Chris, but I think these small individual choices are the training wheels for the bigger choices -- whether those bigger choices are in your research, your office, your business, or whatever. Small/personal choices are the precursors to the large/universal ones, and for that reason people still hold those first steps dear, even when they're working on the bigger picture.

I'm just not sure I see where this article fits. Maybe it wasn't the intention, but it seems to discredit the small things when they're the very foundation of the shifts we're all calling for.

Regardless, I still think you're super. No disrespect intended!

Posted by: Patrick Connolly on 2 May 09

It was very interesting to read this article as I was that second girl who "attacked" on the issue of bottled water during Q&A in Halifax.

One one hand, I'm glad that it's sparking this discussion. The question of small scale vs. large scale solutions is one that is coming up more and more frequently. On the other hand, I have to admit that I am slightly dissatisfied with the justification that has been given. It seems to discredit the role that our personal actions have in shaping the world around us. I very much agree that some of the most statistically significant and large scale changes we will see will be institutional in nature. At the same time, Wal-Mart didn't build itself. Consumer choices shape the world around us. Bottled water is available because we demand it.

We do have personal responsibility for our choices and the values that they represent. That being said, my comments were never meant as an attack on Chris Turner and how much of an "environmentalist" he is. I am certainly not perfect and don't expect anyone else to be. I work in the environmental community and strongly feel that mutual support, innovation and the kind of "feel-good" community connectivity that he writes about are essential for us to change the way we view, and operate in, the world. It was meant as commentary, mainly to the organizers and audience, on how the little things are so easy to revolutionize if we can only shift those habits which cost us nothing to change.

It is not just the small things that are going to help us acheive sustainability, just as it is not only the very large. Our world will never be the same as it was before the industrial revolution, nor do I think it should be. The achievements of humanity have been awe-inspiring and are cause for celebration. I just think that I'll be much more likely to be celebrating if we are able to change our personal AND policy directed actions to ensure that some sort of habitable world still exists.

Posted by: Marie Claire Brisbois on 2 May 09

Bottled water vs. Concrete?
Sorry buddy but your comparison is like apples and bowling balls. First you are juxtaposing two very different systems. Yes concrete is carbon intensive, but it is also necessary to the building of infrastructure. No other building material has the flexibility and structural advantages of concrete. Ask the Romans.

The systems are different in size/proportion but bottled water is a close runner up to concrete and is not a small part of the overall problem. So yes, you were caught with your water in hand. But hey in your defense you couldn’t get through airport security with your personal water bottle.

Here are some fun numbers and I hope someone out there will add to this little picture.

If you break down the average bottle of water into the gallon, global consumption was roughly 50 million gals in 2007. That is almost 200 million quarts or 400 million Dasani average size bottles. Well it is a big number and the projected increase in sales/consumption is 7.6% a year. So the numbers just increase.

If you take the distance water is hauled, transported from manufacture to customer and compare that with concrete you get and even bigger set of numbers. Concrete is hauled an average of 50 miles or less where bottled water is hauled 1000. Take the fuel consumption of the trucks at 6 miles per gal diesel and you can see the impact. Once concrete is at its destination it becomes fixed in place for many years. Bottled water is a never-ending cycle and according to stats is growing. So if we look at just a 50 year life span for structural concrete and the 7.6 percent growth of bottled water that is a 380% increase in use over 50 years. The numbers are just too big to imagine and that is way I think most of us just don’t get the impact of bottled water.

Waste is another factor, but concrete also has waste.

One major criticism of bottled water concerns the bottles themselves. Individual use bottled water is generally packaged in Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). According to a NAPCOR study, PET water bottles account for 50% of all the PET bottles and containers collected by curbside recycling, and the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, a 16.42% increase over the 2006 rate of 20.1%. PET

Leading Countries' Consumption and Compound Annual Growth Rates
2002 – 2007

2007 Millions of Gallons CAGR*
Rank Countries 2002 2007 2002/07
1 United States 5,795.6 8,823.0 8.8%
2 Mexico 3,898.6 5,885.2 8.6%
3 China 2,138.4 4,787.8 17.5%
4 Brazil 2,541.8 3,621.1 7.3%
5 Italy 2,558.2 3,100.9 3.9%
6 Germany 2,291.5 2,743.2 3.7%
7 Indonesia 1,622.5 2,400.6 8.2%
8 France 2,225.6 2,283.2 0.5%
9 Thailand 1,277.0 1,533.1 3.7%
10 Spain 1,191.4 1,284.0 1.5%
Top 10 Subtotal 25,540.7 36,462.2 7.4%
All Others 9,054.2 13,407.3 8.2%
WORLD TOTAL 34,594.9 49,869.6 7.6%

* Compound annual growth rate
Source: Beverage Marketing Corporation

If you begin to actually tally all of the various figures, you will get some startling results.

Some other facts about concrete are that trucks driving on concrete surfaces save fuel when compared to driving on asphalt and other road bases. That is good news for concrete and bottled water that is transported many more miles. The impact per cubic foot for both are close I think so get your self a personal water bottle and put it in your checked luggage.

I won’t even go into the political impacts of water on the poor of the world. Look a little harder next time you are caught. We all try to justify our behavior, sometimes it is just necessity and no more. Small numbers add up to big numbers. The light bulb, 500 pounds of coal a year to burn one incandescent bulb. And how bout that tooth paste in your carry-on.

Posted by: David E on 4 May 09

One more point I forgot is the actual volume of cement to aggregate is about 8 percent in concrete. Most of the volume is rock, sand and other material like fly ash from coal fired power plants. So concrete is looking pretty good when compared to bottled water.

Posted by: David E on 4 May 09

Lots of great discussion here - thanks for the comments, and David E., I appreciate the stats.

That said, I thought I'd add a bit (actually quite a lot) of clarification, as I hadn't intended to be seen as "attacking" small individual actions wholesale nor dismissing the very real environmental costs of bottled water. I'm wholly in favour of achieving every single goal articulated in these comments; I just disagree, evidently, about the best tactics for achieving those goals.

To bottled water specifically . . .

There are two main reasons why I'm not particularly concerned if I wind up taking the podium with a plastic water bottle in my hand on occasion and why I don't think anyone else should be, either. The first is purely logistical - I've done about 70 or so of these lectures, conference keynotes, etc. in the last year alone. At first, I tried to remember to pack my own reusable water bottle, but just as often I would forget. Or leave it at the hotel. Or get to talking to someone ahead of the lecture and forget to fill the damn thing.

In the majority of these instances, there'd be a pitcher and a glass up on the stage/lectern area, anyway. Or a bar that could pour me a glass. On occasion, there was bottled water. I eventually decided that with everything else I had to remember (lecture notes, USB stick, laser pointer, booksigning pen, etc. etc.) I could let the water bottle slide. Let the host or venue look after it.

And to try and ensure the utmost in environmentally sound provisioning in advance would be an exercise in futility - I'm lucky, most times, if I've managed to properly coordinate the A/V so that I have the equipment in place that I need to make my presentation. To add to this what kind of water I require at the lectern, where I want my entree to come from, a blanket ban on winter tomatoes, fair trade coffee only please - nearly impossible, and frankly totally obnoxious.

Still, if I thought that bottled water was unique in its sins among the myriad food chains and procurement systems that serve the modern consumer and conference goer - whether because of the contents or the package or both - then maybe it'd be worth that effort. I don't think it is - as I said, we need wholesale system change, a world in which it simply won't be cost-effective for any given lecture hall to stock plastic bottles of water instead of tap. And beyond that I don't think *my* personal choices in my daily life and public demonstrations of same are an effective way of communicating my message to the broadest possible audience.

Which brings me to the second reason I'm not much concerned with the occasional Dasani: It's not about me. When I stand before an audience, I don't set myself up as a wholly purified and ultra-sustainable example of how they should live, nor do I suggest that the first thing we need to do is ensure that we have purged all toxins from our own little temples. In fact, I try my damnedest not to talk about what I think people *should* do at all. I try instead to present all the opportunities I've seen for them to enhance their lives by embracing sustainability - things they might *choose* to do. Things they might desire or decide they need.

I try to create an aspirational portrait of a world that works. You can agree or disagree with this approach, but in any case understand that's my goal as a speaker and writer: To entice the widest possible audience to get excited about the process of change.

And my sincere belief is that I can best communicate that message by leaving my own personal choices and *values* out of it, and by recognizing that any given audience I'm speaking with contains (for example) a significant percentage of bottled water drinkers and Walmart shoppers and SUV drivers and out-of-season produce consumers and all-you-can-eat shrimp devourers. I could argue, in depth and with real conviction backed by piles of statistical data and logical reasoning, why they shouldn't do any of those things. But I just don't see it as effective.

It *might* work when you preach to the choir, but often as not I'm talking to commercial building managers or small-town mayors or - yes - oil-and-gas guys, and many of them decided long ago to tune out that stuff. Sometimes, afterward, they come to me and tell me how refreshing it is to hear an environmental message that isn't focussed on guilt and blame. And these audiences are in my experience more likely than your average hardcore environmentalist crowd to contain the kinds of people who, for example, procure gross tonnages of concrete or megawatt-scale electricity.

We're talking, here, about changing every facet of the daily lives of every single consumer on earth. Inside a single generation, give or take. I don't think we'll get there by personal virtue alone, and I don't think we'll win hearts and minds by clinging to orthodoxies of any sort.

My carnival barker's schtick goes like this: Come on into the sustainability tent with your Dasani bottle, friend, and once we've shown you how much there is to be gained by signing on, we'll maybe get around to explaining why you're wasting your money and a precious resource besides with that bottle there.

Posted by: Chris Turner on 5 May 09

I think most everyone is missing the point... maybe even Mr Turner lost it trying to defend himself?

The point is that we should not need to worry about whether the water bottle is sustainable. The fact that we have accepted that it could be an option to buy toxic products is the problem. Why can't I shoot you with a gun, but I can emit toxins that slowly kill you? When I shop at my local book store, I do not worry that I may be supporting a murderer because that is illegal and if Chuck is a murderer then he will be dealt with by the police.

And here is lies the paradox - if we cannot, as a society, agree that we should constrain the economy to limit GHG's through international regulations, then how are we going to convince people to do it individually? And until we do, what's one more plastic bottle?

Well, it is argued that it is symbolic. What does not follow is how that will make a difference. Next time someone makes the "well, he does XYZ so he must not believe in Climate change" "argument". Simply say: Do you believe in CC? are you willing to support regulations? If the answer is yes, then everyone agrees. If not, then they don't agree. Mr. Turner's bottle was and is irrelevant.

And one point that was missed: how much concrete was utilized in the event? The building no doubt was made with concrete. How about the fact that Mr Turner traveled to the event instead of using a video conference? My point is this: the "don't do that it's not green" game is very tricky. And most of the time we find four fingers pointing back at ourselves.

I fully understand that the boycott mentality arose out of a sense of frustration and the notion that Big Business would thwart us at every turn. But it is time to exhale a collective sigh of relief and unwind a little. Renewable energy now is Big Business. Decades of education and science are paying dividends. Most americans support GHG constraints! The technology to make it happen is progressing.

So we need get back to designing an economy that will solve the plastic bottle. There are many solutions, but the regulations do not reflect the full-cost of the bottle. Once they do, i imagine that dasani will use different bottles. Or bottled water will be too expensive, and the event will have glasses and a pitcher.

Eitherway, if ever person who ever reads this blog never touches another plastic bottle, we will still be poisoned by the other 99% of the population.

Finally, we should not waste egregiously. And Mr Turner did not do that. He needed water and that was what was available. It's not like the guy lives off dasani water at home (and I know plenty who do). Our individual actions do make the world a better place and do slow the sinking of the ship... the point is we need to change the focus. We need to think big. It is do or die time. The whole world is watching - we have a democratic congress and president that gets it (as much as any of us.

Given the moment, does anyone really care about how Mr Turner acquires his water for public speaking events?

Posted by: Bill S on 5 May 09

David E helps with my point tremendously...
There are so many complications that it is often impossible to know what is the most sustainable choice. It seems the only one that is not complicated is suicide.
From now on I will consider anyone who criticizes my personal consumption choices a hypocrite until they commit suicide or can show me an accounting of all their actives that fit within their ecological footprint.

Posted by: Bill S on 5 May 09

David E helps with my point tremendously...
There are so many complications that it is often impossible to know what is the most sustainable choice. It seems the only one that is not complicated is suicide.
I suppose from now on I should consider anyone who criticizes my personal consumption choices a hypocrite until they commit suicide or can show me an accounting of all their actives that fit within their ecological footprint.

Paper or plastic? I'll take suicide, thank you.

Posted by: Bill S on 5 May 09

Oh come on now, let’s not commit suicide. In fact I think the discussion begins to show just how complicated our world is today. Yes sometimes when you are thirsty you have to use what is available and practical to quench your thirst. As I said, you are not going to get on an airplane with a bottle of water or your toothpaste today. Finger Nail clippers are OK if they don’t have a file. There are benefits to many systems and products. It is how we choose to use them and when we choose to use them. Concrete as well as bottled water has appropriate uses and we have to weigh those against the cost. We have to realize we live in a modern world and we are not going to go backward if we have a choice. But we can make better choices.

I might add that if you are not talking to the choir then that might be a time to carefully look at your overall game. If you are doing what you are telling them they should not be doing then I think that is a problem with presentation. It is the little things that trip us up.

We all consume and we are all human. But we can do better I think and when they ask you paper or plastic tell em I got my our bag. Its fun because most checkers don’t know what to do because it breaks down the trained system. Watch them pack your stuff in your bag, most are having to reason for the first time during their day. Trying to figure out how to put stuff in a different bag, I just love it. How about those lazy Susan’s in many stores now that spin around as they fill the plastic bags with your stuff. When you hand them a personal bag they just well they just have to stop and think.

Posted by: david e on 6 May 09

Hey Chris take a look at Chris Jordan's Website, his series Running the Numbers may help put well the numbers in a visual perspective. Look in series one for his plastic water bottle images.

Posted by: David E on 8 May 09

Wow I never thought a plastic water bottle could convey such a message. I really like the idea of what Carbon Sense is trying to do, I enjoy learning of companies that are taking a step forward in stabilizing a volatile environment.

Posted by: Plastic Bottles on 15 May 09

I definitely have learned a lot about what a carbon sense is and how companies are stabilizing our environment. Great blog post!

Posted by: wholesale glass bottles on 4 Jun 09

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