Even Mayor David Brown admits that bringing up the idea during a drought warning may not have been the best move, marketing-wise. But Brown says it’s an idea that he believes in. So at the end of the last City Council meeting, he proposed that the city stop buying bottled water.
Bottled water, begone! City Mayor David Brown wants Charlottesville to take a small symbolic step by refusing to buy bottled water with city funds.
It’s a largely symbolic gesture, says Brown, since the city provides bottled water on a small scale, at meetings, during city events and through vending machines. But it’s a small symbol that highlights a much larger issue.
If the city stops buying water, it would be following the lead of cities like San Francisco, which has cut off city funds for bottled water, and New York, which is running a public campaign to urge its residents to drink tap water. Chicago is considering a 25-cent tax on bottled water.
According to Harper’s Magazine, an estimated 16,000 barrels of oil were used last year to make the bottled-water containers sold in the United States. It takes twice the amount of water used to make the plastic bottles than the containers actually hold.
"It’s wasteful," says Brown. "The idea is to follow the lead of some other cities. We wouldn’t ban [bottled water], and we wouldn’t ban people bringing it in. It’s more like we’re bringing it to people’s attention. The city would basically try to set an example."
The idea met with skepticism from other Council members. At the meeting, councilors ultimately decided to have the city’s Sustainability Committee look at the idea. "I don’t think I did a very persuasive job," Brown says, laughing. "I don’t think Council was real negative, but I don’t think they were ready to move on it. Plus I brought it up late at night. That wasn’t a great idea."
Brown’s proposal is just one move in a larger trend gaining momentum across the nation at a part of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The initiative calls for cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels suggested in the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement the federal government has yet to sign. Not surprisingly, bottled-water manufacturers aren’t big supports of the trend to phase out the ubiquitous plastic bottles of water.
"The problem is, symbolic gestures can be hurtful," says Chris Saxman of Shenandoah Spring Water, who points out that Shenandoah’s building is geothermally heated and each five-gallon bottle they sell is reused and recycled. "We contribute to the economy. We produce something that otherwise would not be produced. It confounds us why we’re being singled out."
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