Southern California environment news and trends

San Francisco sets sights on plastic water bottle reduction

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klearchos/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Bottled water

In 2007, San Francisco made history as the first American city to ban single-use plastic bags. Now, city officials are investigating ways to reduce plastic water bottles.

According to the Associated Press, one of the proposals being considered is an ordinance requiring new and renovated buildings with water fountains to also install bottle-filling taps to encourage reusable containers instead of plastic bottles. The upgrades to existing water fountains would run about $750.

“This is the appropriate next step to make it easier for San Franciscans to get out of the bad habit of using environmentally wasteful plastic water bottles and into the good habit of using reusable water containers,” said David Chiu, the Board of Supervisors President who's behind the bill. He offers it up as a best-case scenario as compared to more extreme measures, like a plastic bottle tax or outright ban, akin to the plastic bag. Ultimately, Chiu says the move is meant to emphasis the quality of San Francisco tap water.

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U.S. bottled water sales soar to all-time high: A good sign?

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation finds that sales of bottled water in the United States reached a new pinnacle in 2011. With sales increasing by 4.1 percent, 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water were sold last year, with per capita consumption hitting 29.2 gallons, also a new U.S. record. The growth comes after two consecutive years of economic recession (2008 and 2009) in which bottled water sales suffered substantial declines.

“What’s been driving the market for more than ten years now is the single-serve bottle of non-carbonated water,” said Gary A. Hemphill, the managing director of information services for the Beverage Market Corporation by telephone. “They easily account for more than 60 percent of overall sales,” he explained, adding that the market includes sparkling water, home and office delivery jugs and imports. “They’re more of a refreshment beverage. When people are out at convenience stores, for example, more of them are choosing non-carbonated bottled water than ever before.”

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When big companies do good things: Ford Motor Co. to convert millions of plastic water bottles into car interiors

Ford Executives Highlight Former Truck Plant Converted To Build The Focus And Focus Electric

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

WAYNE- DECEMBER 14: A 2011 Ford Focus goes through the assembly line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant following a media preview of Ford products and technology at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant December 14, 2010 in Wayne, Michigan. The plant was formerly a truck plant that was converted to build the 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric vehicles. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

With the automotive world currently focused on Detroit and the 2012 North American Auto Show, Big Three automaker Ford Motor Company has announced one of the most intriguing new eco-friendly car features ever.

Partnering with REPREVE, who specialize in recycled fabrics, Ford will divert around 2 million plastic water bottles from festering in a landfill to create seat fabric for the new Focus Electric vehicles. It will be the first car able to boast an interior of 100% clean technology.

Ford and REPREVE are currently collecting bottles at both the Detroit Auto Show and in Las Vegas at the Consumers Electronics Show that will be used to make the material (they estimate it will take around 22 bottles to produce each car interior).

They also use the occasion to report the sobering news that in America, only 29% of plastic bottles find their way to being recycled, which is about half the rate in Europe. Awkward!

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Can music festivals like Coachella really offset the environmental impact?

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Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Musician Zach Ernst of Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears performs during the first day of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2011 held at the Empire Polo Club on April 15, 2011 in Indio.

With music fans alight over the announcement of the 2012 Coachella line-up, more environmentally conscious concertgoers are still waiting to hear about this year’s sustainable efforts. Granted, it’s not all philanthropic — Coachella promoters Goldenvoice have traditionally made it worth the effort.

The “Carpoolchella” contest has happening every year since 2007. It encourages fans to carpool for the trek to the desert in decorated vehicles. Carpoolers in the winning vehicle (selected by event organizers) win tickets to the festival for life. The 10 For 1 Bottle Exchange is an ingenious way of keeping the polo fields free from empty plastic bottles, and fans hydrated.

Working with non-profit Global Inheritance, for the “TRASHed: Art of Recycling” project, where local artists are commissioned to decorate recycling bins that make up an interactive art-walk on the festival grounds.

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