As temperatures in the Northeast finally begin to ease, we can assess the first heat wave of summer 2010. Here in New York, there was remarkably little drama. Through herculean efforts, ConEd was able to avoid any serious blackouts or brownouts, and thankfully, there were no health emergencies.
Neither were there any major heat-induced public safety disasters.
One thing there was plenty of though was bottled water. During the last few days, when temperatures topped out at 100 F, you couldn’t walk down a Manhattan block without bumping into someone hawking an ice cold bottle of water. Every street vendor worth their permit – and quite a few who probably had no idea that street sails require a permit – was out there in the heat doing a brisk trade.
Vendor in Central Park:
And I admit it, I was one of the customers. On Sunday afternoon, when I was headed across town, I caved and bought a deliciously cool bottle of Poland Spring. No sooner had I forked over my $2 (!) when someone else behind me came up and made the same purchase. In the space of 10 minutes, at least 5-10 bottles must have been sold. Multiply this by thousands of vendors, over several days, and you have a huge quantity of water.
The point? For all we demonize bottled water, it’s incredibly hard to avoid. In my case, I could have (and should have) planned better, filling my reusable bottle before I left the house on such a hot day.
But I’m pretty aware of this stuff, and spend a lot of time thinking about water and environmental issues. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect most people to pack water on hot days just to avoid buying the plastic bottles. A huge benefit of bottled water is that it’s so convenient.
To really counter its dominance , we need to make tap water equally convenient. In this case, that means water fountains, or other publicly available taps, which are clean, reliable and accessible. These could be provided for a fraction of the per-unit cost of bottled water, and would provide a reasonable alternative. In the absence of options like this, when it comes to convenience, bottled water will always win out.
Water fountain for humans and pets in Central Park:
In the past few years, there’s been some real momentum behind anti-bottled water protests, leading to its removal from high-end restaurants and even certain delis and grocery stores. The “ad-hoc” bottled water market though, on streets – at sporting events and in other public places – is still going strong, as this most recent run of high temperature clearly demonstrated. It would be great to turn up the heat on this side of the business too.
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