(asked by Bill from somewhere)

I believe that many French people think of their country as following Green policies mostly. I also know that pretty much every French person (especially Parisians) seems to walk around with bottled water in plastic bottles.
I was wondering if you had any insight to this seeming paradox.
Hi Bill, 
Well, first I’m not sure what makes you think that the French think of their country as following green policies mostly. I personally think we’re lagging in many aspects as far as green policies go in France.
Then, yeah, a lot of French people “walk around” with bottled water in plastic bottles.
And no, I don’t see any paradox at all.
See, I’m one of those persons that “walk around” with plastic water bottles, but guess what I do when the bottle is empty. No, I don’t throw it in the next trash can or worse on the sidewalk, I…. refill it with tap water. One bottle will last me days, and even weeks sometimes. And once I finally get rid of it for whatever reason, I put in the garbage can that has a yellow top, which means -in Paris at least- that this is the garbage can where recyclable things go. icon smile The French and their bottled plastic bottles...

Of course, one cannot generalize from my personal case, but all in all, I don’t think French people think that their country is “green”, I don’t think that using plastic bottles is a “non-green” behavior, as long as one keeps them as long as possible and then recycle them.

pixel The French and their bottled plastic bottles...

8 Responses to “The French and their bottled plastic bottles…”

  1. My wife (who is Parisian) also does that. She buys a bottle of water then she uses it for days or weeks. So she is practically just buying the recipient.

  2. All my plastic go's in the yellow bags, if I have bottled water when I'm out I keep the bottle till I get home. http://rozinbrittany.blogspot.com/

  3. According to the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization in California, France ranks fifth in the world in consumption of bottled water, behind Italy, Mexico, UAE, and Belgium and Luxembourg (which for some reason are grouped together). Here's the link: http://www.worldwater.org/data20062007/Table13.pdf

    And amen for refilling those bottles until they fall apart.

  4. I'm not sure this is the kind of data that's really relevant though.

    Can you compare Italy and Belgium, where one cannot consume tap water in a restaurant, Mexico, where I assume it's not always safe to drink tap water, and the UAE which… which is the UAE, i.e. don't make sense at all as a country?
    I'm not sure.

    As far as Belgium and Luxembourg (and the Netherlands) being bundled up together, it's a common thing, really.

  5. "Recycling pride" in France has appeared in a motion picture recently from France. (ne le dis à personne. 2006) A detective angrily takes a recyclable out of the trash can and puts it in to the bin for recycling after it has been wrongly thrown away by the "evil" other detective in a kitchen. Of course this does not represent how everyone feels, yet this was deliberately made a part of the film so that people could separate the good from the evil character while instilling a sense of pride about recycling in the audience. This was interesting to me. In the US, I recycle, but have yet to read or hear enough concrete information to feel confident about it's certain worth. It would be quite difficult for me to claim to be benefiting anyone or anything by doing it. While I would never dissuade anyone from recycling, I wouldn't make them sweat not doing it either. (granted, I come from a large city known for it's poorly managed recycling programs in the US.) However, I don't mind scenes like this in films because it does make people feel good about their recycling, even if the topic is still up for debate. In my opinion, people can always use ways to feel better about themselves. If people feel good about themselves, then perhaps this will benefit the world in a more intangible way.

  6. For me, I was surprised when I arrived in France that it wasn't greener in its mentality. It was probably naive of myself to think that all of Europe was light years ahead of North America in this field. While Scandanavia and Germany seemed to be at the forefront, I found the French to be at similar levels as those found in many place in Canada or the US.

  7. I've lived in the UAE (which, however you might feel about it as a tribal desert dictatorship in modern-ish dress, is not significantly odder as a country than several other confederations of postcolonial small states, surely?). The reason that bottled water consumption is so appallingly high there is less from people walking around with individual bottles of water than because all but the poorest people have to have their drinking and cooking water delivered. What comes out of the tap is imperfectly desalinated seawater, which remains quite salty, and has been linked to various illnesses linked to poor water quality (there were regular Legionnaire's scares, and some actual cases - part of the issue is that tapwater sits around on top of roofs in tanks in 50c summer heat…) Even showering in it makes your hair fall out in large quantities.

    So people get potable water delivered weekly in four-gallon plastic drums (which are recycled by most of the water companies.)

    Yes, the place is an environmental disaster, obviously! It makes no environmental sense at all, on water issues alone, to plan for major city and tourist growth in one of the harshest and most arid environments on the planet, which until very recently supported only a few farmers and Bedouin who were able to survive off the few natural wells.

    I'd agree with what you say about France and green policies, and applaud the habitual re-use of plastic bottles.

  8. Nathalie, concerning UAE, when I say that it doesn't make sense as a country, I meant what you said: why plan big cities where there's no water and things like that?

    And to be fair, my real opinion about the UAE is:
    -Dubai should be razed to the ground, this place is wrong on so many levels and right on none.
    -I don't know the rest of the UAE, so I don't really have an opinion on it.

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