Calling All Fat-Heads

I had an interesting project at one of my jobs today (the personalized water bottle job, if you’re curious). It appears that we have been receiving irate emails and phone calls from distressed citizens concerned about the impact our industry is having on our nation’s carbon footprint. My job today was to research the validity of these claims and investigate different ways our company could be more “green.”

Within the hallowed halls of the Internet I ran into a lot of statistics, claims, and opinions, some of which were more valid than others. It was enough to make me appreciate my psychology degree ever so much, because, thanks to two semesters of Research Methods and Statistics, I have the ability to look at statistics with the critical eye lacking in most people. Many people, when confronted with statistics, fail to realize how very easy it is to manipulate data to agree with you. If you tweak any study right you can probably get it to support your opinion (please see Thank You For Smoking if you’d like an awesome example of this.)

I went into the research project with an open mind, because it doesn’t matter much to me whether water bottles really are the worst thing to happen to the planet since rampant fossil fuel consumption. What I found, though, was a lot of information esentially saying the same thing:

  • Only half the people in America have access to curbside recycling, and most public places don’t have recycling options. This means that half the people in America have to load up their cars with refuse and make a special trip just to recycle. Really, am I the only one who thinks it’s no wonder we have so much trash?
  • 9/10 water bottles end up in landfills, which is precisely 9 too many in my opinion.
  • A lot of the companies bottling the water aren’t as mindful as they should be when bottling water from natural sources. It’s bad to deplete a city’s entire source of water and the residents there are likely to get mad at you if you do this. Duh.

Basically, my research suggests that, instead of companies like the one I work for being Evil Incarnate (as some of the emails have insinuated) the real culprit is the person on either side of you. As well as the waste management companies. Oh, and don’t forget the people who run your city and determine whether it’s useful to institute recycling programs in public places.

In reality, I have no doubt that there are people out there who know they should recycle their water bottles and don’t just out of sheer laziness. While this is a problem, it’s not the problem.

The only solution is to make it easier for everyone to have access to recycling centers. Whether it’s more curbside recycling programs, recycling incentives (like in California, where they pay you for each bottle you bring to recycle), or better education about the importance of recycling, the problem is not, nor will it ever be, the company that puts personalized labels on the water bottles.

The reason I brought up statistics earlier is that a lot of the articles written on this topic centered around the idea that bottled water is not safer than tap water and so is an outrageous indulgence favored by fat-heads. The people who wrote those articles recommended that people just drink tap water instead and save the world one reuseable container at a time.

You see, the problem is that most people don’t drink bottled water because it’s safer. When asked, they may use this as an excuse, but I don’t think it’s really the reason. I think they drink it because it’s convenient. Most people spend the majority of their waking hours away from their homes and don’t want to lug around a mug that they can fill up in the nearest public restroom or drinking fountain. That hardly seems safe or pleasant.

I’m all for addressing injustices and stupidity in the world, but I don’t agree with jumping on an issue and turning it into a scapegoat if it doesn’t merit the treatment. Maybe you’ve seen different information, but from what I’ve seen, I hardly think water bottles are the problem here. I could be wrong though…What do you think, am I just an outrageous, indulgent fat-head?

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