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Zago
06-11-2010, 10:07 PM
How much more environmentally friendly is it to order tap water at a restaurant? And what if I order soda water from the tap and not from a bottle? It seems like restaurants would be more likely to recycle than households due to sheer volume. Does anyone have some facts about this?

spingears
06-12-2010, 03:50 PM
Ask for "lemon water".
Just a glass of (tap) water with a wedge of lemon in it and usually ice as well.

If soda water is a must let them decide what & how.

Cat Whisperer
06-12-2010, 04:06 PM
Every glass of tap water you drink versus a bottle of water is one less plastic bottle produced and thrown away/recycled (I'll assume that restaurants will reduce their orders for bottled water based on fewer patrons ordering it). I honest to God can't think of any good reason why we need to drink all our water from bottles instead of just having a glass of water.

Shagnasty
06-12-2010, 04:09 PM
How much more environmentally friendly is it to order tap water at a restaurant? And what if I order soda water from the tap and not from a bottle? It seems like restaurants would be more likely to recycle than households due to sheer volume. Does anyone have some facts about this?

The incremental difference is about as big as you can get with any consumer product. Tap water is essentially free and delivered on demand. Bottled water has many logistical steps involved in getting it to your table that command labor and resources. Looking at the extreme case, you may be sitting at a table in Las Vegas and ordering what is essentially tap water from San Francisco to be brought to you. Think that through step by step and the problem becomes obvious. With the soda water or any other type of dispensed drink, there is great efficiency in bulk so the tap is always the best option environmentally speaking. Recycling doesn't have much to do with this. The difference is so tiny it gets washed out by everything else involved.

Dewey Finn
06-12-2010, 04:19 PM
Ask for "lemon water".
Just a glass of (tap) water with a wedge of lemon in it and usually ice as well.

If soda water is a must let them decide what & how.
How does that address the question?

Zago
06-12-2010, 11:21 PM
Several good points made, even if you assume that the glass or plastic bottles are being recycled, still that's a lot of energy going into just getting the product to the consumer. Tap water it is! As a related issue, what is the environmental damage done if I carbonate my own water at home? I have one of those old fashioned soda syphers where you fill it with tap water and then insert a CO2 cartridge to make it bubbly. The cartridges are metal and I'm not sure how I would recycle them? That might just be the worst scenario of all? The contraption was given to me as a present over 20 years ago and it still works, but maybe it's time to get rid of it.

aruvqan
06-13-2010, 04:30 AM
Several good points made, even if you assume that the glass or plastic bottles are being recycled, still that's a lot of energy going into just getting the product to the consumer. Tap water it is! As a related issue, what is the environmental damage done if I carbonate my own water at home? I have one of those old fashioned soda syphers where you fill it with tap water and then insert a CO2 cartridge to make it bubbly. The cartridges are metal and I'm not sure how I would recycle them? That might just be the worst scenario of all? The contraption was given to me as a present over 20 years ago and it still works, but maybe it's time to get rid of it.

Ask your local garbage collector how to recycle the metal cartriges, probably by icepicking them and tossing them in with the cans in the metal bin [that is how I would do it]

LSLGuy
06-13-2010, 11:08 AM
I'm baffled by the terminology here, and I suspect a lot of the other answerers are too, whether they noticed or not. I also wonder where the OP lives, as soda water from a bottle is quite rare in the US. US-centric answers are probably not real applicable without disclaimers.

In general, determining the differential environmental impact of any choice is real difficult; there are so many behind-the-scenes factors which enter into it that often overwhelm the factors you can see or are thinking about.

How much more environmentally friendly is it to order tap water at a restaurant? ...More friendly than what? The most environmentally friendly thing to do is order nothing. The environmetal impact of washing the glass (or disposing of it) after you're done far exceeds the environmental impact of the water you actually drink.

... And what if I order soda water from the tap and not from a bottle? ...At least in the US, "soda water from the tap" is ordinary plain tap water which is injected with CO2 from a tank as it's dispensed into the glass. Just like flavored sodas (e.g. Coca Cola), but without the flavoring ingredients. So there is zero difference in the environmental impact of the water versus plain (non-soda) water, and only a slight difference in the quantity of CO2 consumed versus plain water.

As between bottled soda water & injected-at-the-dispenser soda water, now you're getting into a real environmental difference.

The raw materials for the bottle (and label and cap) must be mined (or pumped if petroleum-based). Then the raw materials have to be shipped to a manufacturer to be turned into a bottle, a cap, and a label. Many manufacturing steps and shipping will have happened along the way to the water bottling plant.

Then the water has to be obtained from someplace. Perhaps a place whose water resources are more constained than where you are locally. Finally the filled bottles must be shipped from the filling plant to your restaurant or grocery store.

I didn't mention the environmetal impact of building the bottle, label, & cap factories, nor of the trucks, trains and airplanes which moved the stuff, nor of the packaging along the way, nor of the factories to make those planes, trains, and packages. Nor of the effort and impact of creating the fuel to run the factories and trains, and ... . Nor of the impact of building the refineries to make the fuel. Nor of the factories to make the tools to make planes, refineries, etc. To be sure, that impact is spread over a lot of bottles of water. But it isn't zero per bottle.

What's the environmental impact of the existence of the bottled water company? Their offices? All the power they consume? All the advertising & mailing & business trips they take? All the equipment they own and the factories that made it? And the fuel they consume?

Bottom line: Whether or not you or the restaurant recycles the used water bottle is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg of environmental impact of a bottle of water. But it has a lot of green feel-good impact, so that's what silly consumers & media commentators think & talk about.


...It seems like restaurants would be more likely to recycle than households due to sheer volume. ...Wrong. Restaurants are in business to make money. Absent local laws to the contrary, they will do whichever is better for their bottom line: trash or recycle. A complete analysis includes what they pay for trash services and whether its flat rate or by the volume or weight. Plus what & how they pay for recycling services. Plus how much extra employee labor it takes to separate out the two streams. Plus any revenue boost they expect for loudly advertising their "greenness", net of the cost of the advertising.

At least in the US, my understadning is most businesses in most locations will find it cheaper to trash than recycle. But homeowners in areas with curbside recycling will find recycling to be no-extra-cost.

LSLGuy
06-13-2010, 11:24 AM
Several good points made, even if you assume that the glass or plastic bottles are being recycled, still that's a lot of energy going into just getting the product to the consumer. Tap water it is! As a related issue, what is the environmental damage done if I carbonate my own water at home? I have one of those old fashioned soda syphers where you fill it with tap water and then insert a CO2 cartridge to make it bubbly. The cartridges are metal and I'm not sure how I would recycle them? That might just be the worst scenario of all? The contraption was given to me as a present over 20 years ago and it still works, but maybe it's time to get rid of it.The cartridges are cheap steel. They recycle as well as ordinary metal cans do.

The previous poster who talked about poking holes in them wasn't really thinking. The cartridges are punctured when used by the syphon. Once removed from the syphon, they have no pressure. They're harmless.

An unused cartridge is a bursting hazard in a recycling plant. Rather than playing with an icepick & poking a hole in your hand, simply put it in the syphon, puncture as always, then remove. All the CO2 (a tiny quantity) will vent in a second or two & you've once again got a harmelss inert hunk of steel.


My bottom line on all this "greenness".

1. Reducing human environmental impact is a good goal.

2. Reduce & Reuse are the two legs of the triangle with the most leverage. 90+ percent of the benefit comes from there. If you want to make a difference, do these.

3. Recycle gets all the press, but with a few exceptions such as aluminum drink cans, a complete analysis shows recycling to have very little benefit. In many cases the local benefits may be positive while the global benefit is negative.

4. The largest way for you to reduce is to have less kids, and encourage policies which reduce the production of children worldwide. But understand that the lifetime environmental impact of an American or European kid is 10-20x that of a third-worlder who lives in a hut. So while it's easy to get worked up over high birth rates in 3rd world countries, the environmental problem today is actually much closer to home for the folks on this board.

Admittedly, the Indians and the Chinese are large in number, still increasing rapidly, & also growing fast in per capita environmental impact. If they do achieve the levels of per capita impact we have today, they'll be a far larger problem than we are now. The only hope is that they don't have to adopt our wasteful ways to get to our higher living standards. They can, conceivably, do it smarter. But will they?

And can we also adopt those more efficient ways ourselves?