Tap or mineral water? All of us on the water service learning trip make a point of carrying our refillable water bottles around as we travel by bus following the flow of the water south through California. For me it's the least I can do after seeing the pictures of Chris Jordan that tell the story of the albatross chicks on Midway Atoll. Because the ocean patch is their feeding ground, albatross parents pick up plastic junk that looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, tens of thousands of them die from starvation, toxicity, and choking every year. I certainly wouldn't want my plastic bottle cap to be the one causing the death of one more albatros, would I? Isn't plastic bottle the enemy? Today, despite all expectations, the water bottle became my new friend and here is why:
Seville, an unincorporated community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, relies on groundwater and a very old and leaky water system to service 75 houses occupied by local farm workers. While expensive water projects ensure the delivery of high quality surface water from the Sierra snowpack to agriculture in the region, local villages can't access nearby streams and must extract their water from underground reserves that became unsafe to drink about 10 years ago when the concentration of nitrates exceeded the legal limits. Consequently, bottled water has become the main source of clean drinking water for Seville and other communities in the area that face a similar predicament.
Charity: Water does a great job at mobilizing people for clean water in developing countries. The work of such nonprofits on the international scene unintentionally contributes to the misconception that dirty water only exists in the developing world. Well, that's not true. Dirty water is all around us in California and some people drink it because they don't have the means to buy bottled water.
City dwellers efforts to avoid bottled water are still commendable, although water bottles are no longer as evil as they were for me this morning.
-Robyn Beavers, Bernadette Clavier
Robyn Beavers became a pioneer in the cleantech and renewable energy movement 8 years ago while at Stanford University when she organized a campus-wide credited seminar on clean technologies that featured invited speakers from local, state, and national organizations. After receiving a civil engineering degree from Stanford, Robyn then worked as a project manager for an energy efficiency consulting firm based in Oakland, CA. In one of her key engagements with this firm, she acted as the chief operating officer of the Cool Roof Rating Council. She then moved to Google where she worked directly for the two co-founders as their leader for establishing environmental and clean energy programs within the company. One of her achievements at Google was in leading the planning, acquisition, and installation of a 1.6 MW solar panel system that powers much of the sprawling headquarters campus in Mountain View, CA. Robyn is now completing her studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she is a candidate for a 2010 MBA.
Bernadette Clavier is the Associate Director of the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She is in charge of the center’s online and social media strategy, software infrastructure, and conference programs. In her spare time she created an organic food program for Bay Area schools, trains as a disaster first respondent, and advocates for autism spectrum disorders awareness.