Do you want molasses with your water bottle?

Although reusable water bottles made from aluminum or stainless steel are gaining in popularity, there are still plenty of individual plastic water bottles being sold. And they have a whale of an impact on our environment.

"Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world," says National Geographic in an article for kids. "adding 29 billion water bottles a year to the problem. In order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months."

While those made of PET can be transformed into carpeting, clothes, automotive parts, and other products, as well as new bottles, the problem is: Only 10 percent of the plastic water bottled sold are recycled, estimates the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But the Coca-Cola Co. has announced that it's going to be testing a new, more environmentally friendly bottle partly made from molasses and sugar cane for its Dansani and vitaminwater brands. (Molasses is a a byproduct of sugar production.)

And PepsiCo previously announced a new bottle for Aquafina water that uses 50 percent less plastic. The company estimates that will save 75 million pounds of plastic each year. (This follows the Poland Spring bottles that use 30 percent less plastic.)

Why this rush to more environmentally friendly packaging by multinational beverage makers? One reason is Wal-Mart's "packaging scorecard," which rates suppliers on packaging reductions that reduce waste and save resources.

This weekend, when I was flying, I would have been grateful for a couple of water bottles that were more environmentally friendly. I couldn't find any water fountains behind airport security to fill a reusable bottle.

I also couldn't locate any soft drinks in aluminum cans. Not that I wanted a soft drink at 9 in the morning, but I would have settled for one in a can that I could recycle. In one airport's concourse, drinks in wax-coated paper cups weren't offered either.

I thought about how nice it would be to have a website I could check that lists which airports have water fountains, etc., and where they're located -- much like the ones that help you locate wi-fi wherever you are.

Now that's an iPhone app I'd happily pay for.

In the news: Mark Trumbull's article in today's Monitor takes a look at the impact of the new federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars. Also see his story on the landmark auto emissions standards.

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