Sustainability Not A ‘One Size Fits All’ Solution

Sustainability Not A ‘One Size Fits All’ Solution

It’s time to stop ‘sustainability-shaming’ – you know, making those moralistic, judgey statements that imply that other people are somehow ‘less’ for doing ‘x’ – and acknowledge instead that sustainability is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

This is the position of Huffington Post contributor and Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Magnifeco and EcoSessions, Kate Black, who urges her readers to “stop being so preachy about three topics: bottled water, eating meat and using conventional beauty products”.

Acknowledging that those are areas in which most of us could make some improvement on, she argues however that “changes and solutions are not universal, and we need to use caution when we make proclamations and sustainability-shaming statements.”

When it comes to bottled water, Black has several steps people should be taking to protect the world’s water resources, rather than simply uttering the emotive phrase “People who drink bottled water disgust me.”

Writing for a mainly American audience, she says points out that, while it “might feel fine and moralistic to poo-poo the ‘habit’ if you live in a town or city where tap water is clean or go to a school that still has working water fountains, a vast number of North Americans lack accessibility to clean, safe drinking water.

“In the US, according to the EPA, only nine US states are reporting safe levels of lead in their water supply. In Canada, there are 158 similar drinking water advisories in 114 First Nation communities.

“Before we sustainability-shame ‘everyone’ who uses bottled water, we need to recognise the differences in audience between those who can and those who cannot survive without bottled water.”

Black’s ways to make a real difference include:
• Petitioning for clean water rights:
• Taking your own bottle everywhere; buying several and keeping one in every bag or car.
• Doubling your efforts and avoid all single use plastics (coffee lids, straws, utensils, etc.) in your daily life – not just the single use water bottle.
• At the very least, if you need to buy bottled water, making sure you recycle it even taking it home if you have to.

South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) executive director, Charlotte Mercalf, welcomes Black’s balanced view.

“Water — in all its forms — is a vital component of our diet, as well as the healthiest beverage option for societies plagued by diseases such as obesity and diabetes,” she says.

“When tap water is unavailable or unsafe to consume, bottled water is the best packaged beverage option for the environment; it has the lightest environmental footprint of all packaged beverages — one that can be reduced by 25% if consumers were to simply recycle the bottle.”

SANBWA was formed in 1997. Its members’ primary concern is the health, safety and pleasure of their consumers. They therefore willingly conform to the extremely stringent safety and quality measures contained in the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard1, which includes environmental stewardship2.

SANBWA’s environmental stewardship protocols address measures to ensure source sustainability and protection, water usage minimisation, energy efficiency, solid waste minimisation, and support post-consumer recycling initiatives.

As an organisation, SANBWA was among the first worldwide to require its members to follow specific recycling guidelines. In this respect, it was advised by PETCO in South Africa (the local plastic industry’s first joint effort to self-regulate post-consumer PET recycling).

It expects members to:
• only support PET bottle suppliers which contribute to the PETCO recycling levy.
• establish a drop-off centre for the public at the bottling facility and all distribution centres.
• add the ‘please recycle’ sign on all labels.
• use recycling friendly materials or recycling optimal materials as stipulated in the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard and published on or on


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