Hydration. Depending on who you are, the word may hold varying degrees of importance to you. As an athlete (both high school and collegiate), the importance of sufficient water intake has been drilled into me for years; but even so, it can be tough to maintain healthy hydration habits. Sometimes one of the best ways to keep ourselves accountable is to be reminded of why something is important.
Water makes up for about 60% of the adult human body. That’s a big percentage, so it makes sense that keeping those levels replenished has a huge impact on us physically! Sources like Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health report that drinking enough water each day flushes out wastes and toxins, regulates body temperature and blood pressure, contributes to smoothly-working joints, and protects sensitive tissues. Because our brains are composed of an even higher percentage of water (cerebral tissue is around 70% water), water intake in also affects our mental health. Staying properly hydrated can also help with consistently higher energy and alertness throughout the day.
So yeah, obviously water is important for a lot of reasons. Your body is important. Your mental health is important. BUT, your world is a whole lot bigger than your brain and your body, and I daresay we would all agree that health is best enjoyed with company. Speaking of company… we’ve got a guest with us today! This week I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Lou Sytsma, Professor of chemistry emeritus, to gather some information about water and hydration from an conservation perspective. Dr. Sytsma is passionate about “spreading the word about the importance of water for the human body, for life on the planet, and what we do to creation every time we open a single serving size bottle of water. And of course, what we can do to be better at taking care of ourselves and creation.” It turns out, the water we drink affects not just us, but the planet–and our wallets–too. Keep reading for our Q and A session!
MD: Why did single-use plastic water bottles become a thing, anyway?
LS: Like so many things in society, it is a product of our being lazy and wanting to have something that doesn’t require much work for us. We don’t want to carry around a reusable water bottle or worry about losing it so we buy our water in bottles.
MD: About how many plastic water bottles are made each year, and what percentage of those are recycled?
LS: Over 60 billion are produced every year, and 90% of those are not recycled. This adds up to about 2 million tons of plastic in landfills annually.
MD: What are the consequences of plastics ending up in landfills?
LS: One big thing is that the plastic (typically PETE = polyethylene terephthalate) is lost forever. I’m not too concerned about any pollution problem from a plastic in a landfill. It is more of a problem when it is disposed of outside of a landfill (see next question).
MD: Other than the landfills, what are some other negative environmental effects caused by the production of plastic water bottles?
LS: Some 8 million tons of plastic wind up in the oceans every year. That is a huge amount that is harmful to fish, birds, etc. And, it’s pretty ugly to view. Furthermore, the production of plastics uses up a lot of petroleum products in their production. It also takes a lot of energy and that energy production makes a lot of carbon dioxide, etc. which exacerbates the greenhouse effect and global warming. And it uses up a lot of water in the production of water bottles. Processing water for bottling requires approximately 9x the amount of water in the bottle. That is, it takes 108 oz. of water to produce just one 12-oz. bottle.
MD: What is the economic cost of producing these bottles?
LS: If we buy water in plastic bottles, it costs about 50 cents per bottle which corresponds to about $5 per gallon (double what we pay for gasoline!!). If we get it from the tap, that water costs less than a penny per gallon. Go figure.
MD: What are some practical, everyday ways that we (ordinary people) can be better stewards of the resources available to us, in regards to both plastic and water consumption? (e.g. Recycling habits, organizations to support, alternatives to plastic, etc.)
LS: Perhaps, the first thing that we as co-participators of the redemptive process should do is to become aware of the problem and study the issue. Two blocks to this are ignorance and apathy (people don’t know and they don’t care). Once one makes the decision to be a better steward, one should ask, “How is this action that I am contemplating going to affect the environment?”
If one seriously cares, then one would certainly follow the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). For reduce–consider that the US represents about 5% of the world’s population yet it uses about 20% of its resources. We can all reduce our use of water and plastics. For reuse–consider that we can reuse a plastic container many times over. For recycle–consider that even if we dispose of an item (such as plastic or aluminum can), then by all means recycle it rather than throw it away. I don’t have any objections to using plastic. It has been a blessing in so many ways. What is objectionable is how we use it and dispose of it after we are done with it.
Olive Branch Counseling Associates