Getting Bottled Water Out of Kids" Sports

Kids" sports don"t need bottled water and sports drinks.© Getty Images

During the dozen years that I have been involved in youth sports as a parent and coach, one of the main tasks I’ve performed after every practice and every game is cleaning up after the kids. What’s struck me during all these years is the number of plastic water and sports drink bottles we’ve had to throw away.

In my town and most of the towns where my kids" teams have played, there aren’t any recycling bins for bottles. We can certainly encourage our towns and leagues to make recycling a priority. But there’s actually a much better solution, one that will make a significant impact on our environment, locally and globally: Reduce the amount of bottled water and bottled sports drinks our kids consume.

Sounds like a challenge, doesn’t it? But there are good reasons why we should find replacements for bottled water and also reduce our consumption of bottled sports drinks. Here’s why:

"Water bottles are made of plastic, and almost all plastics use oil as their base material. We should conserve, not deplete, this precious natural resource.

"Manufacturing those plastic water bottles consumes lots of energy and puts more carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change.

"Water is heavy (very heavy: one liter weighs 2.2 pounds!). Shipping all that water in plastic bottles across the country consumes energy and emits lots of carbon into the atmosphere.

"If the average kid drinks one bottle of U.S.-sourced water a day, that adds up to about 10 gallons of gas or diesel fuel a year in transportation and 60 pounds of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Reusable water bottles like this one by Sigg are fun to use and good for the planet.© Sigg

"Americans will consume more than 10 billion water bottles this year. More than 80 percent of these bottles are just thrown away and are not recycled. This means about eight billion bottles every year are added to our waste stream.

"Bottled water costs you more per ounce than gasoline! Why spend your money to buy a commodity you can have virtually for free from your own tap?

Here are a few easy things you can do to make a difference

"Buy a reusable water bottle for each of your kids. Buy one for yourself. Be a role model and show off your cool new reusable bottle.

"Talk about bottled-water issues with your kids. Kids care a lot about the environment, and they need to know that they can make a real difference. Tell them that every bottle you buy consumes unnecessary oil and contributes to global climate change.

"If your tap water doesn’t taste good to you, put filters on your faucets. You will be amazed at the difference.

"Pick up empty plastic bottles you see. Make sure they’re all recycled and not just thrown into the trash.

"You don’t have to go cold turkey. Trying to be "pure" or "perfect" just makes changing behavior seem more difficult and ends up being frustrating. Try cutting down on how much bottled water you buy, bring your own containers when you travel, and refill along the way.

For your team sports, bring a large water cooler and paper cups to each game and practice.

Try talking to your leagues and schools about this issue, too. Most re-usable bottle companies offer custom logo versions of their products, so your league can actually have its own branded water bottles and sell them at fundraisers.

A lot of these same issues concern bottled sports drinks—they’re mostly water and come in plastic bottles, too. There are plenty of good alternatives to bottled sports drinks, like orange slices, watermelon, and other fruits.

DAVID WILK, a book publishing professional and environmental activist, founded This article originally appeared on

CONTACT: PlaySportTV; Turn to Tap

A Better Class of Water

By Jim Motavalli

Glaceau"s ads featuing Jennifer Aniston promote "water that is the envy of all water."

Is it just me, or are other readers bothered by bottled water advertising, especially the ubiquitous Glaceau SmartWater ads featuring a nearly naked Jennifer Aniston? Billed as "water that is the envy of all water," SmartWater is promoted with spots that leave you vaguely nervous about the once-trusted H20 from your tap. "What do you drink for purity?" one asks. "It’s dirty out there." Further, the ads state baldly that the company "makes" its water "the way nature used to." So nature is out of the clean water business now? By adding electrolytes and other mumbo jumbo, Glaceau wants to turn itself into the equivalent of a winery. Who can resist stuff like this: "Smart Water begins as an artesian spring in Northern Connecticut. After the water is distilled, a balance of Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium is introduced, adding electrolytes." And so it becomes something more than mere water. It’s electrolyte-enhanced hydration. It’s inspired by the hydrologic cycle and "the way Mother Nature makes water." It"s, well, SmartWater.

By the way, Glaceau is no longer the little watermaker that could. Coca-Cola bought the Queens, New York-based company last year for $4.2 billion, with analysts speculating that it would fill a gap in the soda maker’s "noncarb portfolio." Beverage Digest reports that the company sold 77 million 192-ounce cases in 2006. The star in the company’s crown is Vitamin Water, which comes in designer colors and is sold for premium prices.

The good news about bottled water is that the media is finally paying attention. For example, a Philadelphia Inquirer article notes that, "Bottled water, once an icon of a healthy lifestyle, has become a pariah, the environmentally incorrect Humvee of beverages. In recent months, dissent over the once innocuous bottle of Aquafina or Dasani has grown from a trickle to a tsunami."

A USA Today article reports, "Backlash against bottled water is spreading, prompting bans on the plastic bottles at city-sponsored events in some communities, their removal from restaurant menus and campaigns urging the use of tap water instead….Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has endorsed a proposal to add a 10-cent tax to each bottle, which would bring the city about $21 million a year."

Will this backlash become powerful enough to depress sales and reduce the profitability of some big blue-chip companies? Danone’s water portfolio accounts for around 25 percent of its total revenue. Current and would-be investors will want to keep an eye out for further developments.

The industry says it’s not worried. The New York Times carried the following exchange between writer Claudia Deutsch and Kim E. Jeffery, an executive with Nestlé (which owns Poland Spring):

Deutsch: Environmentalists are trying to make people feel uncool,

even guilty, about carrying around bottles of water. Don’t you fear a backlash?

Jeffery: Not at all. We’re aware of the heightened noise level, and ever since July, we’ve been doing telephone and Internet surveys every few weeks, checking on whether people’s perception of our industry is changing. The research consistently shows that people are aware of the issues surrounding bottled water — but they are not going back to sugared drinks, and they will not rely on their taps.

Still, while sales of bottled water are still growing, the pace is slowing. Beverage Digest recently reported that retail sales of bottled water (excluding vending machines and Wal-Mart) grew only nine percent in 2007 compared with 16 percent in 2006.

Whatever the industry says about being unfairly targeted, there’s no denying that bottled water is incredibly wasteful. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of water bottles, or as much as two million tons of plastic a year, get thrown away instead of recycled. That’s not counting the big environmental bills for transportation, storage and delivery.

JIM MOTAVALLI is editor of E.

CONTACT: Message in a Bottle: E’s Bottled Water Story