Danielle Jenkins | Greenwise
The 32−ounce gorilla in the room
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 13:03
I have often heard the argument that reusable mugs and bottles only pay off their carbon footprint if you reuse the bottle or mug 1,000 times.
Essentially, the carbon footprint of a reusable plastic water bottle is allegedly 1,000 times that of a single−use Poland Spring bottle.
To be honest, I have never heard any support for this argument, and my own research has led me to believe that reusing a bottle four times makes it more “carbon−friendly” than a single−use bottle. Stanford University Magazine has also stated that reusing a mug several times (technical, I know) makes it more “carbon−friendly” then using a new paper cup every day.
While the 1,000−time argument is an interesting one, if you are an avid drinker of water, coffee or tea, you will use your reusable bottle/mug at least 1,000 times.
Here’s how I figure it. I have a 32−ounce Nalgene. I drink at least two of these a day, which I will admit sounds like a lot of water — especially when I am eyeing my bottle right now — but in reality, it is the recommended eight glasses a day. I have had my bottle for a year and a half. 365 days in a year x 1.5 years x 2 bottles a day = 1,095 uses. Already, if I am as regular a water drinker as my math assumes, I’ve offset my usage.
Now, let me discuss the mug argument. I drink a lot of coffee. I’m not going to say that I’m addicted, but a day without coffee does not bode well for me. I tried it once over break, and every muscle in my body vehemently protested.
I would say I drink an average of 1.333 cups a day. Most days it is just one, but on some rough days, or when I’m at work, it’s more like three or four — and no, I’m not ashamed.
I drink 1.3 cups of coffee a day. I’ve had my usual mug since late freshman year. I use the same mug every day. It lives in my room and ventures around the house with me. I got it at the Harry Potter Exhibition. Again, I’m not ashamed.
1.3 cups of coffee a day, for the past two and three−quarter years, we’ll call it. Again, 365 days in a year x 2.75 years x 1.3 cups a day = approximately 1,304.9 uses. Using a cup 1,000 times does not seem so difficult anymore.
Now, for the next argument I always get: “But I always lose my Nalgene, so isn’t it better for the environment for me to just use the plastic bottles?” My answer is simple: No. Lead by example, my friends.
If you roll with your Nalgene, and proudly show others how you are reducing your impact, then they are more likely to as well. One thing you may not realize is the influence your actions have over others. If you strut your reusable stuff, your friends, family and peers are more likely to accept reusable as normal as well.
By using your own bottle you are convincing others to use their reusable bottle and divert some of our water bottle waste. So even if you do end up losing your Nalgene, you’ve paid things forward.
So pick a favorite mug or some stickers for your bottle and flaunt your sustainable self around campus. Voila! Environmentalism meets fashion and personal expression in the best possble way.