There is something in the water here at Yale. It is not that intangible essence of power that makes so many alumni leaders in politics and business. It is not the spirit of elitism that so many people think possesses the University and its students. Nor is it magical love juice that will enable you to hook up at Toad’s. (That’s grain alcohol.)
Instead, it is waste.
Before you start boiling your tap water and taking showers in Evian, let me clarify: The problem is not with New Haven’s public water, which has received high quality ratings. Instead, I take issue with all the bottled water I see students and faculty drinking. Prior to the 20th century, clean, fresh drinking water was a luxury available to very few people. Beer and liquor were the beverages of choice because their alcohol content ensured that the drink was purified. Today, however, millions of dollars have been spent to ensure that everyone in America has access to clean, potable water, and yet I look around in class and see people sipping bottles of water from such faraway (and so obviously pure) places as Fiji and New Zealand.
Here is a sample from the Web site of Fiji water: “Far from pollution. Far from acid rain. Far from industrial waste. There’s no question about it: Fiji is far away. But when it comes to drinking water, ‘remote’ happens to be very, very good.” After this, we are informed that “that very distance is what makes us so much more pure and so much healthier than other bottled waters.” That very distance in fact is what makes this water dirty and bad. The irony is that while the water may in fact be bottled far away from pollution and industrial waste, its production contributes to these problems. In the interests of drinking “purer” water, we are paying to put water into plastic bottles, many of which will end up being thrown away rather than recycled, and then flying and trucking the water at least 8,000 miles from Fiji to New Haven, which emits 4,740 kg of carbon dioxide (according to atmosfair.de), the equivalent of driving a medium-sized car 11,000 miles. You wouldn’t drive across the country, let alone 11,000 miles, for fresher water, so why do you need to drink bottles of water from so far away?
There are dozens upon dozens of factors that are polluting our planet and contributing to global warming, but some are easier to fix than others. There is nothing wrong with New Haven tap water. It will not make you sick, it does not come from lead pipes, and it tastes fine. New York City tap water has a far worse reputation, and yet when Good Morning America conducted a blind taste test among its audience, the municipal H2O was picked overwhelmingly against Poland Spring and Evian. If you still feel uncomfortable with water straight from the faucet, buy a water filter at the bookstore or a local pharmacy. Even bottled water from closer sources, such as Poland Spring or Yale’s own label, still needs to be trucked here, wasting fuel and polluting the air. While large changes are needed to solve our environmental problems, small steps can help, and added together they accumulate to create improvement.
Kai Thaler is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.