Bottled water in compostable bottles?

Just as an FYI: A Montreal-based company called +1 Water, which sells bottled water, is claiming to be the first in Canada to sell its product in compostable plastic bottles made out of corn. They claim it’s a “socially responsible alternative for people who buy bottled water.” It calls into question, however, whether bottled water itself — if you ignore the bottle — is socially responsible. It reminds me of carbon offsets and how they help people feel less guilty about living a carbon-heavy, wasteful lifestyle. Curious to know what readers of this blog think?

Sure, it’s a great application of an emerging field of technology — bioplastics — but there’s something about this that makes me uneasy. Compostable plastic bags are one thing, but bottled water? Hmmm….

Clean Break podcast, column

My Clean Break podcast today is an interview with Keith Stewart, climate change program manager for WWF-Canada. Keith and I had an interesting discussion about the “green” wave that has hit politics in Canada. This is happening in all levels of government, but primarily on the federal stage, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper is beginning to realize that his approach to climate change and the environment could be his Achilles Heal heading into another election. Suddenly, Harper cares — as if the ghost of climate past, present and future visited him in the night and scared the bejeezus out of him. Adding even more pressure on Canada, the European Union is raising the bar on emissions reductions, taking the kind of moral leadership that Canada has failed to take. The environmental movement, says Stewart, is seizing this opportunity by uniting in their cause and putting even more pressure on the federal government to act. The timing is perfect, though environmentalists such as David Suzuki worry that the “political posturing” of the Conservatives will trick Canadians into believing in the sincerity of this policy switch.

Also, my Clean Break column today is on a new community co-op being formed in Ontario’s Norfolk County, where the plan is to design a hybrid ethanol/biodigester plant that will produce ethanol, electricity and biogas out of sweet potatoes and sugary grains such as millet and sorghum. This area of Ontario — known as the “tobacco belt” because for decades it was the tobacco-growing capital of North America — has been in steady decline for the past two decades. The co-op’s founders want to reignite the local economy by convincing tobacco farmers to convert their crops to sweet potatoes, which will be sold under long-term contract to the co-op’s ethanol plant. Waste from the plant will then be processed in a specially designed anaerobic digester, creating biogas that can be used to generate electricity (and sold under Ontario’s standard offer contract at 11 cents per kilowatt hour) or be sold on the market. The end result is a zero-emission, self-sustaining facility that, if successful, could easily be replicated across the province. It’s a fascinating story about some local farmers getting creative and taking a personal gamble to improve the health of their community.