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There are many factors to consider when purchasing that seemingly innocuous water packaged in plastic - not the least of which is how we, as consumers, are being manipulated by big business - yet again. As consumers increasingly swear off the calories in sugary drinks, the bottled water industry, dominated by four large multinational corporations: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Danone, are offsetting the loss in sales of calorie loaded soft drinks and replacing it with a new and very profitable revenue stream - bottled water. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the sale of bottled water is the fastest-growing beverage sector in the world. Globally, an estimated $100 billion US are spent every year on bottled water.

Price Gouging
These corporations establish water extraction plants in communities worldwide taking millions of liters a day from regional aquifers or municipal water utilities. Then it's sold back to the public at extraordinary profits. The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that bottled water is between 240 and 10,000 times more expensive than tap water. In short, the bottled water you have sitting on your desk or in your backpack probably comes from a public water source and these large corporations pay virtually nothing for it.

We could re-fill our own water containers over 50 times with tap water for less than one tenth of a cent. Yet when we purchase a branded bottle of water, liter for liter, we pay more for it than we do for gasoline.

Plastic Bottles
Bottled water produces excessive waste and is a major contributor to global warming. It takes about 18 litres of water to produce 1 kg of plastic for water bottles. Plastic bottles also require massive amounts of fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases when manufactured and transported to fill sites and then to retail locations. They also release highly toxic chemicals and contaminates into the air when they are manufactured and again when they are burned or buried.

And while it's true single-serving bottles are in demand for recycling - they are reused for making fibre - the truth is too few plastic bottles are recycled. Recycling rates for plastic bottles has been in steady decline since 1995, despite the explosion in plastic-bottle use. Plastic water bottles are becoming the fastest-growing form of municipal solid waste in the U.S. and Canada.

Not only has the industry promoted the shift from glass to plastic containers, and failed to live up to the promises about using more recycled materials in their containers, they actively oppose legislation aimed at improving recycling rates for plastic bottles.

Even more disturbing is the concern and confusion about chemicals that leach from certain plastics when the bottles heat up. The longer the plastic bottle sits on the shelf the more chemicals it leaks into the water prompting Health Canada to recommend that bottled water have a shelf-life of one year.

The Water
The International Bottled Water Association says that bottled water is superior to tap water. The Big-4 bottled water companies imply their 'proprietary' treatment processes are the justification for the higher cost of their products. However, the industry's treatment processes do not guarantee that bottled water is safer than tap water; in fact, a number of studies have demonstrated that bottled water is often less safe than tap water. Consider that one treatment process uses bromate, which is a carcinogen.When Coca-Cola launched its Dasani product in the UK in March 2004, it had to withdraw nearly half a million bottles due to bromate contamination.

Lax Regulations
In the U.S., bottled water companies are not required by law to disclose the source and geographical location of their water takings on their labels. In Canada they are, but only if taken from underground water. Where groundwater regulations do exist, they differ, often dramatically from state-to-state and from province-to-province. As a result of the lax regulatory environment, bottled water labels are often very misleading.

Scientific studies have yet to indicate that bottled water is healthier for you than tap water. Municipal water, however, is more stringently tested. In Canada , local water supplies are inspected every day, whereas bottled-water plants are inspected at three-year intervals.

Beyond Bottled Water - Water Privatization
So what's really fueling the bottled water culture? Marketing techniques undoubtedly evoke feelings of a safer and cleaner alternative to tap water. But why are the bottled water corporations wanting to change the way people think about tap water? By undermining confidence in public water experts speculate that privatization of municipal water supplies is the long term goal.

Privatization is a generic term used to convey many forms of restructuring water service. The most common type of water privatization is also the most controversial. Governments enter into a legally-enforceable agreement with a foreign multinational corporation. The foreign multinational is then responsible for water service provision. Unbelievably, the corporation determines how water is provided, to whom, its quality, and its price.

Couldn't happened in North America? More than half of the American water utilities are already privately owned. Privatization is slowly getting off the ground in Ontario, where private companies serve 500,000 people, approximately 4.5 per cent of the provincial population. There is also some scattered private participation in Alberta and British Columbia, and privatization is being considered by two of the larger Maritime cities. Seems fresh water is the new oil.

Power Of One
Nobody is asking anyone to stop drinking water. But there is a better way than polluting the environment and your body with chemicals just because you want a drink of H2O.

The movement against bottled water has gained considerable momentum with American celebrity chefs including Alice Waters and Mario Batali banning the bottle at their restaurants. In Canada , delegates to the United Church of Canada's general council voted to discourage the purchase of bottled water within its churches. The motion called on church members to advocate against the "privatization of water" and to support healthy local supplies of water.

Stop Purchasing Bottled Water
As consumers we can make a direct impact on our environment, our personal health and our right to drink readily available, affordable clean water. If you don't like the taste of tap water either boil it or let it sit out for several hours before refrigerating it. Then pour the water into a tempered container that doesn't leach chemicals. The cost to your wallet is practically nothing. The cost to the environment and your health - priceless.

Plastic is big business. According to the Canadian government, the Canadian plastics industry accounts for an estimated $46.9 billion in shipments of plastic products. Worldwide, in 2002 factories churned out a whopping 5 trillion plastic bags ranging from large trash bags to the light give-away model we all use.

Plastic associations globally are scrambling, trying hard to convince consumers they will lose a helpful lifestyle aid if we stop using plastic bags. But their arguments ring hollow. The consequences on our planet, our wildlife and ourselves far outweighs the convenience.

While the implications of plastic infiltrating our world are only beginning to be understood, effects are already being felt in the economy, the environment and in our bodies. Production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas - both non-renewable resources. Californians Against Waste reports the US uses 4.3 million tons of plastic bags and wrappers per year amounting to the equivalent of 48 million barrels of oil.

Plastic manufacturers argue that recycling should be the focus. Recycling is important. But it falls far short of solving the issues surrounding plastic bags. Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. One to three percent of plastic bags are recycled. Many of the bags collected for recycling get shipped to third world countries like India and China where they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws producing the Darth Vader of toxic chemicals - dioxins.

Compostable Plastics
Bioplastics came out a little over 15 years ago. However, biodegradable bags are only useful in specialty applications, such as garbage bags for yard waste and green bins. Evidence shows they will most likely not decompose in the landfill, because appropriate conditions don't exist. (Currently nothing completely degrades in our modern-day landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other important elements - all necessary for the degradation process to be completed. But that's a whole other problem.) Moreover, if the bags do decompose in a landfill without good air supply, they create methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. And then let's not forget the concerns that mixing biodegradable bags into the recycling stream for regular plastic bags can render entire batches useless - opps - there goes recycling.

The Power of One
As consumers, we must acknowledge the role we play when we accept a free plastic bag every time and everywhere we shop. And while plastic shopping bags may be a small part of a bigger problem, by refusing to use plastic bags we can all do something to help change the tide of events that we are currently experiencing.

Simple Things You Can Do:
Make the commitment to change lifestyle habits which will lessen the dependency on the convenience of a plastic shopping bag. And turning to paper bags is not the answer. It takes four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic one. Fourteen million trees are cut to produce 10 billion paper grocery bags. The impact on our forests and Global Warming are too grave to continue this conspicuous consumption.

Think twice about taking a plastic bag if your purchase is small and easy to carry and tell the store clerk why.

Try to go at least one week without accumulating any new plastic bags. If every shopper took just one less bag each month, it could eliminate the waste of hundreds of millions of bags each year. (By using reuseable bags a population of 100,000 people can save up to 14,000 barrels of oil per year.)

Keep canvas bags in your home, office, and car so you always have them available when shopping.

Ask your favorite store to stop providing bags for free, or to offer a discount for not using bags.

Find out if your favorite store has a plastic bag recycling program. If not ask why.

Insist that all your family use reusable bags when shopping.

And this from our friends Skyla and Oz. When going for takeout, bring your own containers and don't forget to ask the server not to put plastic forks with the order.

Most importantly tell your politicians to stop being beholden to the plastic industry. Tell them you want action not rhetoric.

Here we go again. Not so long ago governments worldwide banned the use of BPA in plastic containers. Studies showed the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was linked to some serious health problems including breast and prostate cancer, heart trouble, type II diabetes, autism, liver tumours, asthma, infertility and obesity. In response to the public's outcry, manufacturers removed the chemical from their products and replaced it with bisphenol S (BPS). Now it's been discovered that the replacement is as bad or worse than the original. This latest discovery, demonstrates yet again, the failure of a regulatory system that allows manufacturers to use chemicals that have never been properly tested to rule out potential health effects.

The groundbreaking study from University of Calgary researchers found that even tiny doses cause concerning brain damage in zebrafish. "I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn't think using a dose this low could have any effect," says Deborah Kurrasch, PhD, a researcher in the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

In the study, published in PNAS scientists exposed zebrafish embryos to concentrations of the chemicals at levels found in the Bow and Old Man rivers of Alberta, Canada. By doing this, exposure to BPA and BPS changed the timing of neuron formation in the brains of the zebrafish. "These findings are important because they support that the prenatal period is a particularly sensitive stage, and reveals previously unexplored avenues of research into how early exposure to chemicals may alter brain development, " says Cassandra Kinch, a PhD student involved in the study.

What this means is BPA and BPS may scramble crucial brain development that takes place during the second trimester, causing too many neurons to form early and not enough to form later in development. In essence, the plastical chemicals short-circuit the brain, causing lifelong problems like hyperactivity. In fact, researchers discovered the number of neurons generated in the developing zebrafish brains increased by 180 percent compared with unexposed fish. They also learned that BPS increased the number of neurons by 240 percent in similar experiments.

Cultivate conscious choice to protect your family from the perils of BPS, BPA, and their chemical cousins:

Avoid plastic whenever possible, including plastics making "BPA-free" claims.
Replace plastic water bottles with high-quality stainless steel, such as those from Klean Kanteen.
Use glass food storage containers like Pyrex or Ball mason jars,
Ditch old, scratched plastic.
Avoid canned food and opt for fresh whole foods or frozen whenever possible.
Say no to receipts for trivial purchases. The coating on the paper usually contains BPA or BPS and has been shown to easily seep into your skin.
Eden Foods is one of the few companies that uses a vegetable-based canned food lining.

Plastic pollution is an environmental catastrophe that we can all take responsibility for creating. The choices we make as consumers are literally choking the life out of our global ecosystem. A new documentary, Inside the Garbage of the World, says its so bad, we may not be able to recover. The images are disturbing. But perhaps we need to see exactly what we are causing by accepting yet another plastic bag for our groceries, or purchasing another plastic bottle full of water or buying another throw away plastic toy made from questionable materials.

Our careless use of plastics has created an eco-nightmare. The largest landfill in the world is not located on land, it’s in the Pacific Ocean. Ninety percent of the plastic trash we generate makes its way into the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch” where it’s trapped in rotating currents. Of the five subtropical gyres in the Indian Ocean, North and South Atlantic, and North and South Pacific, the Eastern Garbage Patch in the Pacific is the largest. Located between the U.S. Hawaii and California it covers an area half the size of the continental U.S.

An estimated 4.7 million tons of plastic trash ends up in our oceans each year. According to the United Nations there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. The wave action churns the trash into a toxic plastic soup that destroys sea life and marine ecosystems. Small pieces of plastic are mistaken for food by birds and sea animals killing an estimated 300,000 animals each year. A young sperm whale that washed ashore in California was found to have 400 pounds of plastic lodged in its stomach.

The plastic particles act like sponges for waterborne contaminants such as PCBs, DDT, herbicides, PAHs, and other persistent organic pollutants. Plastics such as polycarbonate, polystyrene, and PETE sink to the bottom, where they smother and kill marine life on the ocean floor. Other plastics such as LDPE, HDPE, polypropylene and foamed plastics float.

Fish swallow toxic plastic chemicals like BPA which disrupts embryonic development in both animals and humans and is linked to heart disease and cancer. Phthalates, dysregulate gene expression and prenatal exposure has been linked to reduced IQ. Why should this be cause for concern? Plastic pollution impacts the food chain. Once the plastic becomes micronized, it winds up in some of the seafood you eat.

Cultivate Conscious Choices - Cut Down on Your Waste

Become sustainably creative. Seek out purchases that are not made from or packaged in plastic. Always choose reusable over single-use. Bottled water is a case in point.

Single use plastic bottles is a major offenders. In the United States and Canada, we discard over half a billion bottles of water every week and the impact on the environment is enormous. Recycling is a step in the right direction, but adopting a reduce and reuse philosophy is better.

Use reusable shopping bags for groceries.
Take your own containers to restaurants or bulk food stores.
Use your own mug for coffee and bring drinking water from home in glass water bottle or thermos.
Say no plastic to newspaper delivery and to your dry cleaners.
Store foods in glass containers or mason jars rather than plastic containers and plastic freezer bags.
Avoid disposable utensils.
Buy foods in bulk when you can.
Use non-disposable razors, washable feminine hygiene products, cloth diapers, handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues.
Use washable rags in lieu of paper towels.
Purchase wooden infant toys instead of plastic.
Avoid processed foods which are stored in plastic bags laced with chemicals.
When buying fresh produce forgo the small plastic bags.
Repurpose products whenever possible.
Purchase locally sourced and locally crafted goods.
Freecycle.org enables you to give products you no longer need away to others instead of throwing them away. Their worldwide membership is now over 5 million in more than 85 countries.

For many, decorating the Christmas tree is our favourite part of the holiday season. There is nothing as magical. It makes the beautiful out of the ordinary standing as a symbol of shared values, peace and hope. It holds the remembrances of old treasures and the promise of new life and there is an undercurrent of a stillness which reminds us of the importance of being close to each other, close to the earth and close to those who have gone before.

Every year, there is a huge debate over Christmas trees -- how damaging they are to the environment and whether or not buying a real tree is best. Despite the fact that chopping down trees might not sound very eco-friendly, the process of growing and disposing of real trees is actually much better for the environment than the production of plastic trees. And despite the fact that you can reuse a fake tree several times over, the PVC they are made from makes them impossible to recycle so for all the joys of Christmas, plastic trees are not exactly kind to the planet.

If fear of fire keeps you from having a real tree, be aware that less than one tenth of one percent of residential fires involve a real tree. Artificial trees are made from petroleum. When they catch fire they exude thick black smoke and toxic fumes. A freshly cut tree is actually difficult to set ablaze. As long as it is kept in water it will be fire retardant.

And what about the nuisance factor? Shedding needles, the need for constant watering and dumping the tree at the end of the season. That's all true. But, come on, it's only once a year and there is nothing like the wonderful smell and the look of a fresh tree. And no, it doesn't have to be a 10 footer. Small can be beautiful. So be kinder to the planet this Christmas, go get a real tree.

How To Care For A Real Tree
One word - water. A fresh tree, like a sponge, contains more weight in water than the tree weighs when dry. So remember to keep it well watered. Trees are very thirsty and will use up to a gallon of water a day! Your tree will drink 65% of its water in the first week that's its set up inside.

How Do You Dispose of a Real Tree?
If you're one of the more than 30 million people who put up a live tree this year, consider extending its usefulness once the season ends. Instead of tossing your perfectly shaped pine or fir into the garbage where it will only end up in a landfill, try one of these creative recycling avenues:

1. Throw it in the water. Christmas trees make great habitat for fish. Contact local conservation groups. In many areas, they'll pick up the tree and toss it into an appropriate pond or stream for you.

2. Keep it on your land. Trees can provide lodging for all kinds of critters besides fish. If you have a suitable area on your property to let a tree decompose, it can become a nursery to insects, fungi and possibly even amphibians and reptiles. Or consider keeping it in its stand and placing it out of doors as a bird sanctuary; it will provide our feathered friends much-needed protection from wind and cold. You can even enjoy a second round of decorating by adorning the tree with enticing bird food:

Suet smeared in the branches
Pine cones coated with peanut butter and bird seed, then hung from branches
Strings of popcorn, cranberries or raisins wrapped around the tree
Hanging fruit slices
3. Use it in the garden. Trim branches off and place them over perennial beds to reduce frost heaving caused by freezing and thawing. Then use the trunks to create sturdy, homemade trellises or tomato stakes.

4. Use a few dry branches as kindling to start your fires.

5. Keep it in your community. Many communities have tree recycling programs that turn everyone's old trees into valuable mulch. If you are unable to try any of the above ideas, contact your Public Works Department to find out if they will collect trees curbside or from a central drop-off location. Or visit Earth911.org to find a local tree recycler.

And while we're on the subject of being kind to Mother Earth during the holidays, remember to turn off the lights.

Decorating houses for Christmas can turn into a festive arms race. Christmas lights can take a serious toll on electricity usage. Leaving lights on all day and night is not good for the planet, or indeed anybody’s electricity bill.

Switch from incandescent to LED bulbs. LED bulbs can glow in every colour of the rainbow, but have a much lower energy consumption. Also, buy a timer for your Christmas lights and set them to come on for three or four hours each evening after dark. This way, you can still make the most of the lights without burning unnecessary energy.

A 2016 study suggests Canada’s freshwater birds, just like their ocean-dwelling counterparts, are at risk from our plastic-saturated lifestyles. Scientists are finding bottle caps, coffee cup lids, packing tape wire, foil, Styrofoam pellets in the stomachs of freshwater birds across the country.

While much research has looked at plastic pollution in ocean birds, little is known about Canada’s inland waterfowl.“I’m surprised and not surprised," said Doug Tozer, an Ontario program scientist at Bird Studies Canada. "You don’t really have to even read the literature, just go down to the beach and this plastic stuff is everywhere.”

From the Source: Environmental Health News
http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/aug/plastic-hurting...

Finally world leaders are listening -- let's hope it's not too late. This week France was the first country to ban disposable plastic cups and plates in an attempt to curb the obscene amounts of plastic waste that's accumulating in the oceans.

The new French law will require all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. That number will rise to 60% by January of 2025.

One hundred and fifty single-use cups are thrown away every second in the country -- 4.73 billion per year, according to the French Association of Health and Environment, ASEF. Only 1% of them is recycled, largely because they are made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene.

France hopes to become a world leader in environmental and energy solutions, catalyzed by the COP21 Climate Change conference held in Paris last December. In July, the country imposed a total ban on the distribution of lightweight plastic bags at supermarket checkouts, a measure already in place in several countries.

It is of no surprise the industry association representing Europe's leading food-packaging manufacturers, said that the measure violates EU law on the free movement of goods and has asked the EU Commission to block the French law. It's consulting with lawyers about taking legal action against France.

Plastic pollution has devastating environmental implications. Scientists’ projected estimates of the amount of plastic in oceans range from one ton of plastic per two tons of fish by 2050 to more than 50 percent plastic.

Plastic pollution is a problem we can all do something about. Be a conscious consumer. Take reusable shopping bags with you when shopping. If you purchase in bulk, take your own containers. And when you purchase coffee or tea bring your own cup.

A new study suggests Canada’s freshwater birds, just like their ocean-dwelling counterparts, are at risk from our plastic-saturated lifestyles. Scientists are finding bottle caps, coffee cup lids, packing tape wire, foil, Styrofoam pellets in the stomachs of freshwater birds across the country.

While much research has looked at plastic pollution in ocean birds, little is known about Canada’s inland waterfowl.“I’m surprised and not surprised," said Doug Tozer, an Ontario program scientist at Bird Studies Canada. "You don’t really have to even read the literature, just go down to the beach and this plastic stuff is everywhere.”

From the Source:
Environmental Health News
http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/aug/plastic-hurting