Friday, July 11, 2008

Not Buyin' It (or My Beef with Kleen Kanteen™)

[For those of you coming over from Frugal Friday, this is more of a rant than a tip, but it does have to do with spending less and being conscious of how and where you spend your money.]

Most of us are consistently on the lookout for ways to keep ourselves and our families healthy while maintaining at least a fairly-frugal lifestyle. And we try to do so with as low an impact to the environment as we can. So when I started hearing about all the dangers of water-bottle plastics, I was about to jump on the stainless-steel bottle bandwagon.

The new alarm is about BPAs (bisphenol A) in plastics. The ideal bite notes "A 2007 study links BPA to enlarged male breasts, earlier puberty in girls, and cancer." And water bottles and other plastics have recently been found to leach this lovely chemical into the water and foods we consume. In response, there are many new products on the market, such as BPA-free plastic baby bottles as well as glass versions. (Of course, many people agree that breastfeeding is the best option is this case.)

The biggest increase in new product consumption I've noticed, though, is in stainless-steel water bottles for kids and adults. Kleen Kanteen™ and Sigg™ are the big names right now, but I'm sure more will soon follow. It's not that I don't like their products, per se, they seem like they are a good alternative to plastic, and the fact that they are reusable is a great way to cut down our use of plastic, since so much of it isn't recycled anyway. Beth, who writes the blog Fake Plastic Fish, (which I love!) quoted from a report by S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom, saying,

More than one billion plastic water bottles end up in California’s landfills each year, taking 1000 years to biodegrade and leaking toxic additives such as phthalates into the groundwater.

In addition, just the production of plastic has a huge environmental impact. From the same report:

According to the Container Recycling Institute, supplying the plastic water bottles that American consumers purchase in one year requires more than 47 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of one billion pounds of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere.

Additionally, water diverted from local aquifers for the bottled water industry can strain surrounding ecosystems.

Furthermore, transporting bottled water by boat, truck and train involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels.

So buying these stainless-steel bottles is a good thing, right? Well, technically, yes. But the fact is, they are charging close to $20 for an item that still has plastic in it. The tops of both Kleen Kanteen and Sigg have plastic stoppers. And while it's definitely better than having the entire thing out made out of plastic, why not just make the entire damn thing out of stainless steel?

And the thing that really gets me steamed is this: Kleen Kanteen used to have stainless steel tops that came standard with their bottles, but now you have to buy those for an extra six dollars! So now in order to be completely up-to-date with the most-safe option out there, I have to spend $26 for myself and each member of my family so that I don't endanger their health either. That's $130 just for water bottles.

It just goes to show how our consumerist culture and the companies that power it are taking the "green movement" and exploiting it for their own good.

You can't just rely on vinegar and baking soda for cleaning like your grandmother did, you have to buy the new-and-improved "green" (a.k.a. most expensive) version of brand-named products that include vinegar and baking soda in their ingredients.

You can't just buy unbleached coffee filters (or god forbid make your own) you have to buy the soy-based, triple-pressed, 100% organic ones.

You can't even just bring your own canvas bags you've had for years to the store, you have to buy the cute ones that sell for $20. (Even the ones that sell for a dollar at most supermarkets aren't necessary if you already have some at home. Even reusing the plastic bags you got from the last shopping trip are fine, although admittedly not very cool.)

And don't even get me started on all the "natural" beauty products! (Another reason I'm no-poo.)

There are plenty of other examples of this and how our culture is using fear to goad us into consuming more (remember the run on plastic and duct tape after 9/11?), but I'm too frustrated to write more right now.

I'll end with trying to exemplify what No Impact Man is often saying: "The best thing you can use is something you already have." If we really are trying to be greener and actually implementing the three R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recyle) that have been drilled into us, then I am going to hop off the consumer bandwagon (until I get sucked up into something else to be scared of). How? Simple.

In regards to the plastic water bottle issue: I have a glass jar of Postum I just finished the other day. Glass jar. Metal lid. No plastic. Voila! Problem solved.


Michele said...

I do the same thing! I carry a small glass jar (or a big glass jar if it's a long trip) for water. I can't even imagine paying that much for a water bottle!

Great tip! :)

Donielle said...

I've thought the same thing about those bottles w/ the plastic tops. I got all excited to buy one, went to the store, and went "hmmm, I'm still gonna be suckin' on plastic, no thanks you" and spent my 20.00 on some healthy food instead!
I'll have to dig around and see if I have a jar that might work! Nothing better than healthy and frugal!!

Loretta said...

I have wondered the same thing. I know exactly what you mean. It seems everywhere you look, people are still trying to make money on the next fad, fashion, or scare out there. We are not and can not be naive about it. Thank you for being another voice to make people aware. Aware of the real choices out there.
Funny, I don't remember what my folks did when we were growing up in the 70's, when we wanted something to drink on the road. We probably stopped somewhere and "heaven forbid" drank tap water from a fountain! =)

Kim said...

I absolutely love your solution to this problem!

Anonymous said...

Snapple juice bottles makes the best recycled water bottles, the glass kind. The top screws back on and if dropped, it won't shatter! I know because my granddaugher has dropped her twice in one day.

Lulu's grandma

bopster said...

It's hard to hear but true none-the-less. We can't afford not to educate ourselves, especially when regulatory agencies are so accessable to large corporations. More reading on BPA in the home:

bradm said...

I've been using a recycled glass juice bottle for years (have not broken it yet) and refill it with water from a bottleless reverse osmosis water cooler. There are many inexpensive filter systems that will clean up the tap water to make it better than bottled.

The excesses of which you speak are real and part of our commerce. It's what makes the world go 'round. That's unfortunate, but with a growing population, it's necessary. Everyone can not be a cobbler.

The subject of population growth is not often discussed as a looming problem or the root cause of our eco-stress. But undoubtedly with population growth comes economic and environmental stress. The need to feed and support a huge population combined with free market capitalism yields Fiji bottled water and the Kleen Kanteen. What would happen to our consumer culture if we stopped consuming?

Ironically, it's cheap energy that spawns the trivial. Watch out once we have conquered cheap renewables.