Drink Local

July 13, 2009 by Jay Beckwith
Drink Local

What’s that old Chinese curse … “May you live in interesting times”?  Sure seems like we’ve been cursed.  

These days one of the most difficult issues I’ve had to deal with is, well, feeling stupid and a bit ashamed of myself.  I haven’t always been as conscientious about the environment as I could be.  The little things didn’t seem to really matter all that much.  Now with the economy and the planet in real trouble, the only actions I can find to change are the little things.  I can’t do anything about the banks and living out here in the county, can’t give up my truck.  

So I’ve started looking at the little things; like what I drink.  Doing a bit of searching and I discovered some remarkable statistics. One study found that the average person drinks 600, 12 ounce soft drinks per year.  I thought that was high until we had some young guests stay at our place for a week and they would drink a coke for breakfast and then keep one always at hand all day long!  Checking the supermarket price I found that 25 cents per soft drink is about the average price.  If you multiply that by the population of Sonoma County we’re looking at $70 million dollars per year!  90% of that goes to three major companies; Coke gets 43%, Pepsi takes in 31%, and Cadbury has 16% market share.

Astounding!  But even more surprising is that Americans are starting to think about becoming healthier and sales of soft drinks have been flat for the past 4 years.  Maybe folks are catching on to the fact that the phosphorus in these drinks damages our ability to take in calcium.  Combine that with the trend towards less milk consumption and you can see a real bone health problem.  Or perhaps we are beginning to understand that the high fructose corn syrup in many of these drinks is making us obese. Those are good trends, right?  Well, not so much.  It turns out that we’re drinking a lot more bottled water which is now the second most popular beverage with over 30 billion gallons sold last year. This results in 2.5 million plastic bottles being discarded.  Bottled water cost an unbelievable 4000% more than tap water, which studies have shown is generally the same or better quality.  So whatever you paid for that Aquafina, Evian, or Dasani you could have had it for about a penny from the tap.

Stop this madness.  Get a reusable bottle and drink tap water.  Give them as gifts to your friends and family.  OK, so your teenage kid needs an “energy drink.”  Try a local Mate drink.  It gives a similar boost that many say doesn’t make you crash or get addicted.  There are several local producers of herbal drinks with incredible flavors.  Many of these are organic and fair trade produced.  My current favorite drink is just adding a bit of lemon and a slice of cucumber to water from our well.

If all of us in Sonoma County drank one less soft drink per day per year and either saved that money or used it to buy local beverages we would keep 43 million dollars in the local economy.  Now, that’s not such a small thing, for the economy or the environment.