The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 24, 2008

Sitting with a plastic water bottle

Yesterday, Allie wrote about the problem of keeping hydrated while traveling. Not realizing she could carry her Kleen Kanteen through security, she ended up purchasing bottled water. And apparently, she is far from alone. A couple of days ago, USA Today published an article about the environmental issues around bottled water production and waste that begins with the author’s troubles at the airport.

Last night, I encountered this dilemma in a very unexpected place: a meditation hall. My friend Nancy and I went to sit with and hear a talk by teacher Pamela Wilson, given at a Unitarian Church in Berkeley. I’d had a stressful cab ride over and was happy to sit and relax into the moment, take a breath, and slowly open my eyes as Wilson began to speak with the audience. Her voice was calm and serene.

And then… oh my god!

She pull out a disposable plastic water bottle and…

holy crap! drank from it!!!!

What do you do when reality is right up in your face like that? I talked to myself (silently) saying, “Self, it’s okay. She must have a good reason. I’m sure she has a good reason. She must not have had any choice. Oh, but Self, of course she had a choice. She’s a meditation teacher. She’s supposed to be enlightened. So how can she be doing this? Shhhh! Listen, she’s saying something. What’s that? Words? But… but… but… plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle!


It was a great practice, actually. My plastic practice. Because this is the world we live in. And because the point of Pamela’s whole talk was about welcoming the voices that we hear in our heads, not shutting them up, but honoring reality in all its forms and in all the ways that it presents itself to us.

So, I honored the reality that was screaming in my left ear. (Don’t know why my internal voice seemed to be coming from the left side. It just did.) And when I had a chance to ask a question, I took the microphone and smiled and gave voice to the little freak screaming “Plastic water bottle! Plastic water bottle!” except the voice I used to describe it to the group was much softer and calmer than the one in my head.

As soon as the words were out, I felt better. And Pamela Wilson laughed and looked at the bottle and said, “Oh I know! Isn’t it awful?” And she admitted how she had been traveling and was really thirsty and didn’t have anything to drink and needed water, and oh how good this water tasted, and yet still, the plastic will last forever, except that she will recycle it. And the whole time, we were smiling and connecting on this genuine heart level.

I don’t know what happened to that bottle afterwards. But I do know that once I honored the screaming in my head by giving it loving attention, it transformed into something that could actually be a positive force in the world. Both the message and the medium were one.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m realizing all the time how important it is to forgive each other and ourselves as we work to protect the planet and make the world a better place. Because really, the world is already perfect. Isn’t it?

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Canada Guy
14 years ago

We all know water bottles are wasteful and bad for the environment, yet their production is growing rapidly everywhere. Just 20 years ago the market for plastic water bottles was practically nonexistent, but today we produce billions of these completely unnecessary products. There can be only one sane response, plastic water bottles must be banned!

14 years ago

ensojul —

Love the effort Aveda is making with the plastic bottle caps. We’ve written about it on our blog and have at least inspired one school in our area to start collecting them for recycling.

15 years ago

I love your site! It always makes me so conscious of my plastic uses, which in turn makes me feel so guilty. I’m sure you’ve heard of this, but I’ve been collecting plastic bottle caps from my office. Once the bin is full I take them to the local aveda salon. They have a cap recycling program:
Anyway, again, I love your site. I just started one that talks about crafts using reused materials. There’s not much on there at the moment, but check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think!

Nouveau Riche
15 years ago

I love the forgiveness and honoring both sides. I need that if ever someone like me is to change her environmental impact practices.

15 years ago

It is so hard to be perfect with the never-ever-use-a-plastic-water bottle again pledge in our world!
I just made a trip to the grand canyon –a tour really–in a car (land rover) and I took my water bottle–but it was 98 degrees and we were on this tour all day–and they had a whole cooler of really cold water–in plastic bottles. argh!!!
Of course, I used up my canteen water first–but it was not enough–so I ended up drinking 3 bottle of water–I told the tour driver–I hope you will recycle all these bottles and he promised to…but I still feel bad—I could have asked him to help me refill my canteen somewhere (like make a stop) but I went with what was convenient–and cold.

At one of the gift shops—this was the West Rim of the grand canyon which is owned by the Hulapai tribe. Anyhow the Native American Hualapai Indian girl waiting on me in the gift shop–I bought one postcard to send to a friend–and she tried to give me a plastic bag for it!! I said to her–“I do not need a plastic bag–plastic bags are bad for the Earth. Her response: “I hear you”— it was all I could do to stop from saying “then why are you giving out those plastic bags? why not ask your employers to stop doing that?” I guess I felt like it was not the place to make a big issue of it…but it made me sad. Maybe I missed an opportunity….

kale for sale
15 years ago

This is so perfect. I had a very similar voice about bananas and why people couldn’t just eat fruit that’s in season locally instead of shipping bananas from all corners of the earth. Then I realized the voice was only succeeding in hurting me and somehow it’s disipated. Now of course, I want to stand at the local fish counter with a heavy purse and whack people that order fish that’s in the red/danger categories. Aren’t heads constant adventures? I’m going to go meditate now. Thanks for a great post.

Robert V. Sobczak
15 years ago

I drink too much water to bother with bottles. I drink over a gallon per day … right from the source: the spicket. I’m a hydrologist so hold myself to that higher level (most of the time).

15 years ago

As I go through massage therapy school, honoring the voice in my head becomes such a natural part of who I am. It’s a wonderful experience and yes, the world is perfect just as it is, just like each of us is perfect just as we are.

Green Bean
15 years ago

Ah, what a post! I agree that we must have forgiveness. None of us is perfect. We are all working toward the same goal but go about it in different ways at different paces. It is also, however, equally important to give voice to that screaming voice inside our heads.

Anita K
15 years ago

Since I have started my own GreenUP Challenge, my awareness of waste when I go out has skyrockted.

I really bothered me last week when I eat in at a restaurant that they served my hot chocolate in a disposable cup! With a lid! At least the lid was recyclable so I brought it home to the recycle bin. Next time (IF) I go there again, I will ask for a mug or I won’t purchase the item. That’s action with my wallet!

15 years ago

LOL That is like holding an AA meeting in a bar! I have been to many of them. THe bar owners seem to feel they are there for the comunity. LOL water bottles are the bane of my existence at work- I never understand why they can’t get some big berkey water setups and use a friendlier way of dispensing the water. No. they use bottles of water. Oh well- I guess the company wantedd to be known as a green company so bad they gave every employee a Kleen Kanteen, so they can have a Kleen Konscience!

15 years ago

I am working on forgiving you for having an ice cream party and using up the last of your fudge sauce, forgetting about the jar u said you would save for me. When I read about it in a previous FPF blog, my inner voice cried out, “Fudge sauce, fudge sauce, not fair, not fair.” Unlike you, after expressing your inner voice, I don’t feel better after expressing mine. I just want that jar of fudge sauce and cannot bring myself to go buy a jar for myself.

This beautiful afternoon I went to Point Molate. If you want to see discarded junk and Crystal Geyser water bottles, that’s the place. Most of the bottles had water left in them and were tightly capped. I almost never see discarded soda bottles with soda left in them, but that’s not the case with water bottles. I guess folks get thirsty, buy a bottle of water, drink enough to quench their thirst, re-cap the bottle and toss it. Other folks get thirsty, buy a soda, drink the whole thing and toss it. And not in the trash.

Just think, if Ruchi aka arduous (above) had gotten sick in India, she would have consumed even more water in plastic bottles while rehydrating herself.

ruchi aka arduous
15 years ago

Oh my God, Beth, if you could see the number of plastic water bottles I’ve consumed in the past three weeks while I’ve been in India. Not wanting to take any risks getting sick, I only drank bottled water. I didn’t even brush my teeth with tap water! But on the bright side, I didn’t get sick either.

But my experience with all that plastic made me realize just how much is at stake. In India, many of the rich have fancy filtration systems in their homes. Which perhaps means that the government isn’t pushed to do much about the drinking water. If those of us with access to good drinking water start drinking bottled water instead, we might eventually have no choice but to drink bottled water.