Blue question mark

Is bottled water bad for us?
— Molly M., Grade 5

Marine ecologist Kate Holmes answers this question:

Hi Molly,

The water  inside bottled water is safe to drink and is not bad for us. But buying lots of water that's in plastic bottles isn't great for the planet. The problem is really all about people making and throwing away too much plastic.

I'm really concerned about plastic and our oceans. And it's not just plastic bottles that we need to worry about. We use many things made from plastic, like grocery bags and balloons.

Even when we take care to throw away our garbage in trash cans, all sorts of plastic waste can end up in rivers, on beaches, and in the oceans where it can float on or near the surface.

Marine life and birds can mistake plastic items for food and it can get caught in their stomachs. Animals can also become entangled in plastic. In both cases, the animals can eventually die.

plastic bag stuck on a coral

Plastic bags can "suffocate" corals and quickly kill them.

There are many ways YOU and your friends can help  reduce  the amount of plastic that you use.

Refill a Water Bottle
Rather than buying packaged bottled water, you can buy a water bottle that is made to be used again and again by filling it up with tap water. In many places in the United States, tap water is just as healthy as the water you buy from the store. By not buying so many drinks in plastic bottles, you save money and you also help reduce energy use. It takes lots of energy  to make plastic bottles and transport them long distances to stores.

Recycle and Don't Litter
When you do have something made of plastic that you need to throw away, make sure you dispose of it properly. If it is made out of recyclable plastic, put it in a recycling bin. It's important that we never just throw our garbage onto the ground!

Take Less Plastic Bags
When you're at the store, ask yourself: "Do I really need a plastic bag to carry my stuff home?" You can put your purchases in a cloth bag like your backpack.

eco-friendly reusable shopping bag with handles

Take along a reusable cloth bag when you go shopping.

Keep a Tight Grip on that Helium Balloon
Many balloons that float away end up as dangerous litter, especially on the ocean.

Help Clean Up
As part of a cleanup day, you can help clean up your local waterways and beaches. You may think about doing it on Earth Day (April 22, 2008) or World's Ocean's Day (June 8, 2008). It's a great way to celebrate how your work is helping to protect our planet and the oceans!

volunteers cleaning a beach

Maybe you can join a nearby cleanup day effort?

You Can Make a Difference!

Kate Holmes

Kate Holmes

Job Title:
Biodiversity Specialist, Center for Biodiversity & Conservation

Known For:
Kate is a marine ecologist. She investigates the design and function of marine protected areas in the Bahamas. Kate has helped with marine conservation projects around the world, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Barbados, Ecuador, and Canada.

Cool Fact:
Kate goes SCUBA diving to observe the coral reef  off of the Palmyra Atoll, a ring of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The SCUBA equipment allows her to stay underwater for a long time. With measuring instruments, a notebook , and a camera, she surveys and documents the plants and animals that live there.

Image Credits:

plastic bag stuck on coral, courtesy of NOAA; eco-friendly shopping bag, ©; people cleaning up beach, courtesy of NPS; Kate Holmes, © AMNH.