National Parks Thirsty for Bottle-Free Water

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It seems so contradictory that the lands we treasure and protect as National Parks are full of disposable plastic water bottles. An estimated one-third of parks’ waste coming from these bottles. The fact that more and more parks and bottle-free organizations are are pushing for better water policies is a good sign.

Out of the 408 National Parks in the U.S., about 20 have already put an end to selling bottled water. And 75 have confirmed their commitment to bottle-free practices. Fortunately, it’s some of our country’s top parks that have been leading the way in this water movement.

Greener Park Practices

While plastic water bottles aren’t entirely banned in these parks—you can still bring your own—more National Parks have elected to remove it from their vending machines and concession stands. In 2011, the National Park Service implemented a policy to encourage plastic water bottle recycling and reduction. The policy also outlined the option to eliminate bottled water sales entirely, on a park-by-park basis.

Since that policy was enacted, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Zion National Park in Utah, and other popular National Parks have all chosen to stop selling disposable water bottles. Instead, they’ve worked to install water-refill stations along their trails’ major stopping points. These parks eliminate massive amounts of plastic waste every year by offering visitors free water. All they need to do is bring a reusable bottle. It’s a great deal for everyone!

Parks that opted for the bottle ban early on have had fantastic results. In just one year Zion Park estimated that it took 60,000 disposable water bottles (that’s 5,000 pounds of plastic) out of the waste cycle. So why aren’t more parks moving forward with bottle-free practices?

Well, it comes down to politics. The International Bottled Water Association is currently lobbying the Senate to pass an amendment to keep bottled water in the parks. The amendment would forbid the National Park Service from spending money on bottled-water-free policies, but only if it passes. It’s important that we hear more voices in favor of bottle-free hydration. Otherwise, the parks might lose control over their own water policy decisions.

Plastic Bans in the News

Recently in Delaware, Corporate Accountability International’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign got newspaper recognition for their efforts in promoting water bottle park bans  They actively work with park officials to launch new water bottle refill stations. These efforts bring more public attention to the practices of the commercial water bottle industry. More movements like this will encourage park visitors to opt for reusable bottles, instead of disposable plastic.

The fight to eliminate disposable plastic water bottles is strong here in Indiana, too. DePauw University has already joined Ban the Bottle’s movement to remove unneeded waste in landfills. We hope other Indiana campus follow soon, and we support these water efforts locally with Bottle Free Indy. It’s wonderful to see more Indianapolis organizations, schools, and businesses kicking the plastic habit.

Hopefully one day all 408 parks will decide to switch to water refill stations and reusable bottles, but the bottled water industry has been putting up a fight. That’s why public support needs to swing towards the National Parks—not corporate bottled water. If you want to support the bottled-water-free movement in our national parks, tell your senators to vote NO on the parks amendment.

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