Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Yesterday I opened the fridge at home, and was astonished to find these:

1.5 Liters of Bottled Water

Fifteen, even ten, years ago, these items would be unremarkable in my kitchen. I might’ve even remembered purchasing them, rather than regarding them as puzzling stowaways. But thanks to the Web, I’m now enlightened to these harmless-looking bottles’ sinister nature. Each is a crystalline vessel of needless expense, inefficient resource usage, and toxic compounds . So how did they end up in my house?

Each bottle is an artifact from a conference. Each is the result of a conference organizer’s good intentions and relatively enlightened self interest. The original notion seemed to be concern for conference attendees’ physical comfort (“Keep hydrated through those long days of sitting in chilly, darkened meeting rooms! Here, take a bottle of water…”), combined with greater awareness of the ruinous health consequences of drinking soda, and the practices of corporate branding, to create the now ordinary half-liter water bottle such as you see here, and such as you probably have lurking in your own refrigerator.

How is this a problem? We got something for free, right?

Uh, no.  We’re paying for it,  whether we drink this water or not.

We’re paying for:

  • The delivery of so many single-serving bottles full of what is often just tap water
  • The janitors necessary to remove these used-only-once water bottles from conference rooms and wastebaskets
  • The energy inputs required to recycle these bottles, if that’s even available.  (To that conference’s credit, one of these party favors used 100% recycled plastic for its bottle)
  • The landfill space required to bury these bottles when recycling isn’t supported

And we’re missing a great opportunity for tech conferences to be as innovative as they claim to be in their publicity. Want to be truly “disruptive, or “2.0,” or “the future”? Hand conference attendees collapsible steel cups with the conference logo printed on them, and point the way to the drinking fountains.

I doubt we will notice anything missing from our fridges.