Two nights ago, I played a small part in making history, and, hopefully, in starting a new revolution.
Concord, Massachusetts, the town where I have lived for the past twenty-five years and where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired in 1775, voted at our annual town meeting to approve Warrant Article 32 banning the sale, after January 1, 2013, of non-sparkling, unflavored water in single-serving (e.g. 34 ounces/1 liter or less) plastic bottles.
The vote comes two years after a similar warrant article passed at Town Meeting, only to be thrown out by the Commonwealth's Attorney General for a drafting defect.
Since then, I have read with interest in our local newspaper all of the very well-researched and written articles and Letters to the Editor, both for and against the ban.
I voted in favor, but only after some deep soul searching. On the one hand, I wondered whether it was appropriate for the small percentage of the residents of Concord who show up at town meeting to decide for the rest of the citizens what we can and cannot purchase. I also had concerns about how the ban might unfairly impact the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of thirsty tourists who visit our historic town each year, not to mention the kids playing sports on our playing fields, rinks, and courts who need to stay well-hydrated.
On the other, banning the sale of single-serve plastic bottles would be a step, albeit tiny, in the right direction towards tackling the huge environmental problem they cause. An estimated 38 billion non-biodegradable plastic bottles end up in the nation's landfills every year, and less than 20% of plastic water bottles are recycled. If nothing else, the ban would likely generate a more spirited public debate about the issue, and perhaps get the corporations who manufacture bottled water (often filling them with filtered water from a municipal water supply, not from some pristine underground spring) to consider what they are doing to the environment.
Some of those who stepped to the microphone at town meeting to oppose the ban said they were acting purely out of self-interest: what was best for them. Others expressed support out of a belief that the ban was what was best for everyone.
In the end, my decision to vote in favor of the ban came down to my concern for the planet and our children. We need to be good stewards of the earth. What kind of message do we send our kids if we bequeath to them a mountain of trash and don't do what can to protect the entire planet?
Assuming the ban passes muster with the A.G.'s office this time around, the ban will undoubtedly take a bit of time to get used to for some, and undoubtedly inconvenience some visitors, but it won't be a problem at MomsTeam, as we already drink filtered tap water from reusable bottles.
Prompted by students learning in the classroom about the harmful effect on the environment of plastic water bottles, an increasing number of colleges, including Colby and Brown, are already water bottle-free campuses.
To suggest that the vote at Concord's Town Meeting will end up rivaling in importance the original "shot heard ‘round the world" at the Old North Bridge on April 19, 1775 would be to engage in hyperbole.
But a clarion call to environmental arms?
Only time will tell.
Has your team or league banned plastic bottles? If so, how is the ban working and what are kids doing instead to stay hydrated during sports? I would love to hear what you are doing to help youth sports in your community "go green." Send your e-mails to delench@momsTEAM.com
Brooke de Lench is the Founder and Publisher of MomsTeam.com and the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports, now available as an e-book.