Friday, April 8, 2011

Elegy for a water bottle

I'll tell you a secret: What I do now because it's environmentally friendly, I did originally just because it was cheap.

I remember the bottled water craze, when everybody was just fine with paying a dollar for what you could get for free out of a drinking fountain or a faucet. Everyone, it seemed, but me. I thought buying bottled water was the dumbest thing you could do.

I got on this hydration kick just about when I graduated high school. I made sure I had water with me everywhere I went. I never once bought a bottle of water, but when I acquired one for free, I would keep it. I would fill and refill it from the sink over and over again until it either melted in the dishwasher or got lost.

In college, I rarely lost my water bottles, because I always carried them in my backpack. Once I graduated and began taking them to work with me, I was continually losing them. No one seemed to understand that though they were designed for disposal, mine were supposed to be kept. Despite my name all over them in big letters, whenever I forgot one in the break room overnight, it would be gone by morning. This frequent loss of my water bottles caused me no end of distress, especially since I had long ago realized the environmental benefits of reuse, and was acutely aware of how much ecological damage I was doing every time I threw a bottle away.

Soon, I discovered the aesthetic appeal of Metro Mint bottles. These little pieces of work were so gorgeous, I would pick them out of the recycling bin and claim them as my own. Once, I even actually bought a brand-new bottle of the stuff, just so I could reuse it.

Around the same time as my Metro Mint Water kick, the bottled water backlash began in earnest. It had been brewing for a couple of years (as an employee of an organization focused on beverage container waste, I may have been more aware of it than the general public), but it really fired up after 2006. Suddenly, bottled water became the enemy, and reusable bottles were selling like hotcakes. (As an employee of a natural foods store, I may have seen a higher spike in bottle consumption than the population as a whole.)

But in spite of all the trends pointing towards fancy-pants bottles, I still carried around my cheap disposables. I didn't start using a reusable bottle until early 2010, and then it was only because my last Metro Mint bottle disappeared and I didn't want to have to buy a new one. Instead, I turned to a bike bottle that I'd been given at a volunteer event the previous spring.

KOR One Special Edition
Hydration Vessel (Say that
one time fast!)
It was ugly. But it was free. I used it faithfully until this year, when suddenly, new water bottles began to rain down on me! Early in the summer, my bottled-water decrying employer #1 held a meeting at which every attendee was given a brand new glass bottle (and a nifty scarf). Then my water-bottle selling employer #2 held an event at which all attendees were given a brand-new, even fancier, reusable glass bottle of their very own! I chose that fancy bottle to be my new sidekick, even after my bottled-water decrying employer #1 sent me an even fancier KOR One Special Edition Hydration Vessel as a reward for helping organize and facilitate a particularly stressful conference.

And I loved my glass bottle. It was my pride and joy. I carried it everywhere with me (except for those occasions when I didn't want to carry around a bottle that weighed a whole pound empty, or I needed one that would withstand a little rough treatment) until a Sunday ago. I took it to my choir concert, and it didn't come back with me. I don't know where it went. I called the church, and the very nice person I talked to said it hadn't been found there.

I sadly gave up all hope of ever seeing it again, and I write this post in its memory. Strangely, its death has catapulted me to new heights! Now I'm using my KOR One. People think it's pretty awesome, and they comment on it all the time. And so, by miraculous twists of fate spanning nearly a decade, I have grown from a weird cheapskate with a bedgraggled Poland Springs bottle at my side, to a trendy, green role model with a bottle the envy of the world!