That free Plastic water bottle on the train?

That free Plastic water bottle on the train?

We start our day with Plastic. I am traveling on the Shatabdi from Delhi to Kathgodam, and I find myself surrounded by the stuff. There is oceans of it waiting to be distributed.  These pictures speak.

But there is a simple, easy way to fight the scourge. A re-usable, refillable water bottle. I’ve owned mine (Picture below) for 13 years. The printing is getting worn out. I’ve used it on treks, while traveling by air, train, car, bus and on long solo motorcycle rides. If on average I use, say, 6 single-use plastic bottles every month, then this bottle has saved 13X12X6 = 936 bottles of water. In rupee terms that is over 10,000 rupees.

Reusable Water Bottle. Genius!

The Return On Investment (ROI) is an easy argument. I bought my water bottle for less than 600 Rupees, and it has paid me back many times over.

My reasons are beyond economic, though. There are 1000 fewer plastic bottle messing up our planet, thanks to this one re-usable bottle.  I am not done with this bottle yet. I intend to use it till it breaks. But it is a high quality bottle – it wont break easily. The printing on it will become illegible and the branding may go. But I don’t buy water bottles for reading.  I buy books for that. As long it holds water safely and is hygienic, I’m going to use it. 

The strangest pressures act on you on a Shatabdi. People insist that I should take that bottle of water because it is “Free”. I patiently explain that the water I carried in my waterbottle from my home is also free. Even more so because it frees me of having to think about how much plastic I am polluting the planet with.

“The attendant will probably sell it” comes the next argument.

Yes I know. But the point is that since I didn’t use it, it has replaced some other bottle which would have sold anyway.

Over the last decade it has become easier to travel with the bottle in India. Earlier I was often unsure about the quality of water I refilled the bottle with. Now the bottle is easily refilled. Airports offer free drinking water in fountains. Even railways stations – at least in some places – offer paid potable drinking water – mostly from an RO machine. Practically all offices have filtered, potable water.

When we travel we often eat out.  Restaurants are required by law to serve potable water free. They don’t tell you that because they want you to buy that plastic bottle of packaged water and add 4 rupees to their profits. But they are required to. In fact I once confronted that attitude at a restaurant in Nainital – a place called Zooby’s. They said they do not serve RO water – only regular water. I created a scene and asked the manager loudly how they got their license. He got into classic Hotel Management crisis management mode, opened the Bisleri bottle and with a genial smile proclaimed that they would not charge for it. I would have shouted at him some more if I hadn’t been gritting my teeth. Some people just don’t get it.

This is the tripadvisor review I wrote for them.

Not surprisingly, they haven’t responded.

Soda bottles are a similar, if smaller, bugbear. The picture is of a sodamaker I use. The plastic bottle is refillable and reusable. I do not buy soda bottles anymore. And on the rare occasion we drink cola it is from cans, which are recyclable. Sure it costs a little more. But the higher cost is offset by all the plastic water bottles I don’t buy. You can buy this “Mr Butler” sodamaker on Amazon. If you consume lots of soda, it will save you money too.

No, I don’t get any commission for pushing this. 🙂

Fact is, it’s easy to switch away from single use bottles. Carry a reusable bottle. An expensive one will help you make sure you don’t lose it (mine is a Nalgene bottle I bought from the US for $15, back when the rupee was 40 to the dollar).  Refill it when convenient. It helps if the bottle fits comfortably in your luggage – like in the bottle sleeve on your backpack. You’ll help save the planet, and save yourself a little money.

I feel good I’ve made a difference. I am happier still that I have instilled the same values and consciousness in my kids, and they too abhor plastic bottles.

They are 11 and 12, and they don’t consume single use plastic bottles. They carry water bottles and refill them as required. Think you can do the same?