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How Green

Bottle Madness! (And Coffee Cup Madness Too...)

As Elizabeth Royte describes in her entertaining and at times shocking book "Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It," Americans spent almost $11 billion on bottled water in 2006. Not that Americans need bottled water, Royte writes, when we can drink tap water for far cheaper right out of our own faucets.

And not only does the process of bottling water require vast amounts of energy (about 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture a year's worth of bottles, Royte reports), but after the water is all gone, you have to dispose of the bottle, too -- $11 billion worth of bottles. Granted, some bottles can be recycled and made into other products, but why not just ditch bottled water altogether?

Though I'm a bit torn about a low-meat diet or air-drying my wet clothes on a laundry line, I've embraced the idea of using reusable bottles for quite a while now. Rather than buying bottled water from vending machines or picking up large cases of Aquafina or Evian from the grocery store, I try to drink out of a reusable water bottle, like my Gatorade bottle pictured below, as often as possible.

My two new best friends...

Switching from bottled H2O to drinking out of a reusable container is easy: All you need to is buy a plastic or metal water bottle -- like those popular Nalgene bottles -- fill it up with tap water (it's safe, don't worry) on your way out the door and you're all set.

If you do buy a Nalgene bottle, which you'll be able to get plenty of use out of, make sure you buy the kinds that are bisphenol A-free, or "BPA free." Nalgene had run into a bit of trouble as it had previously made bottles containing BPA, a dangerous chemical (I don't know if Nalgene still makes any products with BPA anymore), so look for that BPA-free designation.

What's more, as Nalgene bottles have caught on in popularity, people think it's necessary to collect the bottles, or use them for a couple of weeks then throw them out and buy a new one. Nalgene offers a lifetime guarantee on all of its water bottles, meaning they should last forever. So hold onto that bottle and get some real use out of it.

Clean, green coffee machine

Like discarded plastic bottles, thrown-away coffee cups are an environmental problem of concern. Every day as I pick up my morning cup of joe, I see hundreds and hundreds of coffee cups crushed in the garbage can of the coffee shop.

This, too, is another easy fix: Buy or borrow a reusable coffee mug, like my metal one pictured above. It keeps your coffee warm for longer; coffee shops usually give you a discount for having your own cup or mug; and it helps prevent more coffee cups ending up in a landfill somewhere.

As of late, there have been some attempts by coffee companies like Starbucks and Espresso Royale to green up their act when it comes to coffee cups by making their cups out of recycled materials. And they should be commended for their efforts, which certainly are productive.

Still, the best move you and I can make is to bring our own mugs. You can buy one at any coffee shop, grocery store or gas station; they're usually cheap; and they're easy to clean.

Updates, updates: This low-meat diet is a struggle. Brutal. Painful.

Now that I'm eating far less meat than before, I want a steak burrito or hamburger or slice of pepperoni pizza more than ever. I basically had to pry myself away from the local burrito dive today before I ordered some meat-filled burrito that I really wanted. But I stayed strong, and ended up noshing on a slice of veggie pizza at a local Italian joint. Still, the struggle continues...

But on other fronts the project is going well. I did another load of naturally cleaned laundry last night, and have managed less than 10 total minutes of shower time the past couple of days. Unlike the meat, the shower transition has gone more smoothly than I had thought it would.