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Beverage Independence Featured on Jun 23, 2010
Soft-drinkers, join a thirst revolution! Bag the bottles and make your own drinks for the next month.
Avoiding bottled soda, tea, and sports drinks will reduce your CO2 emissions by 25.7 lbs for the month.
6565 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 76.97 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 102 homes for about 1 month!
- Americans drink an average of 1.1 gallons of soft drinks per week
- The energy used to process, bottle, and transport 250 million+ gallons of drinks each week really adds up!
Remember the Boston Tea Party? (Tea tax? Samuel Adams? Bunch of Colonial longshoremen in not-very-convincing costumes dumping crates of tea off British ships?) Well, think of this Challenge as a Green Tea Party. But don’t throw anything into your local harbor. Show your spirit by dumping bottled soft drinks from your menu for a month. Americans drink an estimated 14.3 billion gallons of soft drinks and sports drinks each year. Bringing that number down is a carbon revolution! Now, doesn’t that homebrewed iced tea taste better already?
The Carbon Connection
If you look at the life cycle of a bottled soft drink, you’ll find that the manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal of the product all result in CO2 emissions. The transportation part of the life cycle; however, is the biggest CO2 culprit. Soft drinks are mostly made of water, and water is pretty heavy stuff. Moving bottled soft drinks requires trucks and a lot of fossil fuel.
Soda starts out as raw materials — the corn to make the sweeteners, the flavors, etc. Those raw materials for the flavoring are transported from their sources to a concentrate factory. From there, the concentrate is packaged and transported to one of many bottling plants spread around the country and around the world. The bottles and cans used in the bottling plant are also made elsewhere. All of these things get shipped separately to the bottling plant. At the bottling plant, the concentrate is combined with water and sweetener, carbonated, and then put into the bottles and cans. The finished soda then gets shipped, often hundreds of miles, to a distribution center and then on to your local grocery store. For each transportation leg, fossil fuel — often diesel truck fuel — is burned and carbon dioxide gets released.
Aside from the transportation, the manufacturing of soft drinks is a source of greenhouse emissions. Fossil fuels are burned to create the energy needed to manufacture the plastic, form the bottles, and then fill them with soft drink. Making an aluminum can is also energy-intensive. And while recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans is good, not using them in the first place is even better.
Getting It Done
Need help meeting this Challenge? Here are a few suggestions:
- The simplest and undoubtedly healthiest solution to your summer thirst is good ol’ tap water. Its clean and doesn’t require any new bottles or trips to the store.
- Many people prefer something with a little more flavor than plain water. If that sounds like you, consider other un-bottled alternatives: iced tea, iced coffee, lemonade, or fruit punch. All can be made with your tap water plus fresh ingredients or drink powders. Maximize your carbon savings by minimizing the amount of energy used to make your replacement beverage. For example, make sun tea instead of boiling water on the stove.
- And if you typically go for bottled drinks when you’re at work or school, mix your drinks on the go! Make sure to have some drink mix and a water bottle handy so you can make your own soft drink with the available tap water.
- Sports drinks also come in powders that you can mix with tap water. Not only do you save carbon by not carting around all those bottles, but you also save money. Making Gatorade from powder can cost less than half as much as buying it in bottles. There are also recipes for making your own sports drinks from scratch. Everyone has their favorite recipe, so try to find one you like. Remember to add a little Nu Salt so that your homemade sports drink has the potassium you need to replace after exercising.
- If you must have bubbles, consider a home soda maker. These machines convert tap water into soda water that you can flavor many different ways. A review of soda making machines is here.
- If you fall off the soda wagon a few times this month, no big deal. Just make sure you go for a drink from a soda fountain. Fountain machines make drinks using tap water, so they involve much less fossil fuel for transportation.
Have any of you already given up on bottled soft drinks? Do you have a really good recipe for sun tea or your own version of a sports drink, made from scratch? If so, share what you know in the Discussion section below.
Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge is intended for Rallyers who drink carbonated drinks and sports drinks. The Challenge asks you to not drink bottled or canned soft drinks or sports drinks for one month. By drinking tap water or homemade soft drinks, you will reduce your average CO2 emissions by 6 lbs per week or 25.7 lbs for the month. This Challenge is repeatable after 1 month.
See the Math
Still with us? Let’s look at the known or estimated numbers before you work up too much of a thirst:
- According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, the average American drinks about 3.7 gallons of liquid per week. source
- Of those 3.7 gallons, 28.3% is some sort of carbonated soft drink and another 2.3% is a sports drink. That’s a total of 30.6%, or 1.1 gallons of sweetened beverage per week eligible for this Challenge. source
- According to the Pacific Institute, the processing, bottling, and transport of one gallon of bottled water requires the equivalent energy of burning 0.25 gallons of crude oil. Because of the bottling and transportation similarities between soft drinks and bottled water, we will use the Pacific Institute number for this Challenge as well. Chances are more energy is needed to produce a soft drink than to simply bottle water, so our carbon savings number will probably be a low estimate. source
- Burning one gallon of crude oil releases 21.7 lbs of CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere. source
Now put all that together to get the following equation:
- As you can see, that all comes out to a savings of 6 pounds of CO2 equivalent per week or 25.7 pounds per month.
Your numbers will vary depending on the amount of soft drinks you’re replacing. Just remember that the idea is to cut down on the energy needed to package and transport what you’re drinking. So drinking more juice or some other packaged drink is not a good alternative. Make your own soft drinks or go for water. And declare your independence from the bottle.
Discussion 166 comments so far
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