Monday, June 2, 2014

June 2 (Day 153) - Another lovebird encounter, using less bottled water

I spent most of yesterday biking around Phoenix looking for the Rosy-faced lovebird. I caught up with several of these birds, but it took a fair amount of riding to do this. This morning, as I was eating my cereal, I heard some squawking out front of the house where I was staying. I peeked out the front door to see a beautiful lovebird sitting on a cactus in the front yard. I grabbed my camera, ran out the front door, and quickly worked my way around the saguaro to get the little guy in good light. He only stayed atop his perch for a few additional seconds, but I really nailed him/her when I had the chance! I saw several more birds flying around as I rode out of Scottsdale this morning. After my long search yesterday, it was nice to have this guy/gal come to me today! For those folks looking for these birds in the future, just cover enough ground in Tempe and Scottsdale with your ears open and I am sure you will find a few of these little guys.

Rosy-faced lovebird

Today's and tomorrow's rides are designed to set me up to look for Gray Vireo on Wednesday.  I have some good leads on habitat that should not require too much of a detour from Route 17. I will search for the vireo (and Black-chinned sparrow and Juniper titmouse) around Camp Verde, AZ on Wednesday morning before heading north to Flagstaff that afternoon if I am successful. I plan to spend 2 days chasing down additional birds around Flagstaff before starting to make my way directly to Colorado. The exact route I will take is still be sorted out so stay tuned. Today's ride from Scottsdale to Black Canyon City was a short but very hot. It is now about 103F outside, so I am glad I am off the roads for the day! This heat is really killer. I have been totally wiped out after my rides the last few days.

52 miles today

OK, I told you a few weeks ago that as the birding slows down a bit, I hope to tackle some more controversial issues on quieter days. Today is going to be one of those days. I am going to discuss a modern convenience that we accept despite its incredibly negative environmental consequences: bottled water. Now, I know many people like bottled water, and I have stayed with many people who in fact drink only bottled water. I am not trying to pass judgement on their lifestyle, but I am trying to get folks to see how counterproductive the regular consumption of bottled water can be for the environment. I am just going to present some facts and it is up to you what to do with them. I will at the end offer a few ideas as to we might curb this runaway, bottled water trend.

To repeat: I am not telling people they must immediately stop drinking bottled water. I am just asking everyone to understand the high environmental cost of doing this on a regular basis.

To start, it takes 3-5 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water. Bottled water is 1,000-10,000 times more expensive than an equivalent amount of tap water. It takes petroleum to make the bottles into which the purified water is bottled, and it takes petroleum to move the bottled water from where it is bottled to where it is sold. Only 1 in 5 of these plastic bottles is recycled, so 80% of them end up in landfills or the oceans where they will take hundreds if not thousands of years to degrade. Many of the bottles end up in the huge plastic wastelands called plastic gyres on which our oceans are currently choking. The bottom line is that we pay a huge environmental cost for a resource we can obtain with much less impact just by turning the tap. Here are a few articles that discuss this further.

I understand that for some people it is about taste and convenience. Admittedly, my sense of taste is terrible so to me it's all the same. I have been drinking water out of Burger King bathrooms this whole year and I am still going strong (fans of the 1980's hip hop group 'Digital Underground' should appreciate that reference). Bottled water certainly tastes better to some, but that does not change the fact that there is a huge cost associated with this preference. Other people seem also to think that there is something biologically or chemically wrong with the water supply in this country. This is generally a charge leveled by bottled water companies to scare consumers off of tap water (It IS all about the Benjamins, baby). Here is a debate on the pros and cons of bottled water. Notice a spokesperson for the water industry penned the second position. That's like a tobacco representative saying smoking is healthy! Lastly, in some extreme circles, bottled water is just another form of social currency, a status symbol that proclaims the wealth of the consumer. Think I'm joking? Read this

My point is this: we all should think twice about the amount of bottled water we consume. Clearly, bottled water is imperative for emergencies, but we must find a way to bottle and use less of it on a day-to-day basis. Bottled water is a very environmentally inefficient way of obtaining what is otherwise a very renewable resource. I am not trying to judge. I am trying to inform, and if what I have written makes some of you feel a bit uncomfortable, I can live with that. Change does not happen when people are comfortable. 

With that being said, I will offer one idea for those unable to part with bottled water: substitute a water cooler instead. Many folks with whom I have stayed this year have done just this in their homes. It's the same water that comes in the individual bottles without the waste of the billions of bottles. I do realize that the individual 16-ounce plastic bottles can be recycled by my very environmentally conscious audience, but it's much better not to use them to start with, agreed?

Just to nip this in the bud now, I will drink bottled water from time to time when there is not a tap option. If I am severely dehydrated on the road and someone has a Dasani for me, you better believe I am going to drink it!


  1. Hi Dorian,

    Thanks for giving us this interesting information. So I guess this Evian water bath would not be the most environmentally friendly way to take a bath? :)'s_Hotel_Victor_Still_Offering_Guests_an_$11,000_Soak_in_Evian_Water

    Seattle, WA

  2. + Gray Flycatcher in the same habitat

  3. Great points and I love your reference to the classic hip hop song The Humpty Dance!

  4. Great points, I struggle with the convenience/taste issue myself as well as chemical spill in my local area but it has not yet contaminated local groundwater; I have also been very religious about recycling my bottles and live in area where recycling is taken quite seriously, but still...

    Additionally, the "spring" water issue is interesting as well, my uncle has looked into that the amount of "spring" water put into the bottled water varies, apparently they only have to have a certain amount to have the water qualify as spring water & they can fill the rest up with tap water, EWG is good resource & they encourage you to contact your preferred water bottler for direct info, which is scary/fascinating, and also the fossil fuels used for transporting the water...!! We are actually pretty lucky to live in a country where we have such plentiful water sources, one could write a treatise on how we even get cut off from that and need to use bottled water like in 3rd world countries where the water is truly unacceptable, are we practicing for what we're doing to the planet?

    Anyway, thanks for the pics and the beautiful descriptions for those of us following along who haven't been birding in the SW! Just bought a bike to begin my own local commuting too!

  5. Of course, the sensible alternative to bottled water is installing a filter or using a pitcher with a filter if people are concerned about water quality or taste. Even better than those big bottled waters that still ignore the low energy infrastructure that has been serving us well for years: the existing pipes that bring water to (essentially) every household at low cost, low waste, and low environmental footprint (compared to bottled water, regardless of the size of the bottle).

  6. Amen brother! I have a viseral reaction against bottled water. Mostly because I can't get with buying something that falls from the sky....

  7. Excellent points you make. Our longevity and health is due mostly to clean water and immunizations, yet people choose otherwise. With bottled water is all about marketing and $$$.

  8. I completely share the anti-bottled water sentiment. I'd add that "spring water" is the worst kind of bottled water; the companies run local aquifers dry in getting the stuff. When I must buy bottled water, I make sure to buy it in a large gallon+ container labeled "from a municipal source".

    Interestingly, this same eco-consciousness has landed me on the receiving end of the anti-bottled water sentiment. My wife's work often caters meals with Dasani water bottles, and she will sometimes salvage the unopened Dasani bottles that would otherwise be thrown away. Then we'll use and re-use those bottles for a while when biking, playing sports etc. We've had it multiple times now where others will give us the stink-eye or make comments when they see us drinking from the Dasani water bottles, until we explain that they're re-used. So please everyone, be careful to understand the subtleties of the situation before judging! - Dave

  9. Seems to me the best of all is to use the local machines at a lot of stores that use reverse osmosis with local water sources. Seems to be the cheapest alternative for exceptionally clean tasting water in my area.
    The feral cyclist