Month-long challenge increases water consumption in North Carolina
Americans purchase and dispose of about 50 billion plastic water bottles per year, averaging about 14 bottles per person each month. Over 75% of these bottles are never recycled. They end up in landfills, littering roads, parks and beaches, and clogging streams, rivers and oceans. A single plastic bottle takes over 450 years to completely decompose. In addition to the environmental harms posed by the widespread popularity of disposable water bottles, there is a consumer cost associated with bottled water. The average person spends over $250 a year on this natural resource, 90% of which is attributed to packaging, transportation and marketing. Despite the environmental and financial impacts associated with drinking bottled water, consumption of water is essential to keeping the human body functioning properly. Nearly all of the body’s major systems depend on water to function and survive.
Based on an assessment of ways to energize adults in the community and address a community problem, North Carolina Cooperative Extension educators launched a 30-day Water Challenge in Washington County, which is ranked 94 out of 100 for counties in a per-capita recycling recovery rate. Residents only recycled 14 pounds per person per year. This 30-day Water Challenge was designed for adults to be cognizant of their water intake from a going-green and cost-savings standpoint. In addition, as parents take on the challenge, it builds long-term healthy habits that will be mimicked by the whole family. Forty participants registered for the inaugural challenge in 2020 and were given a refillable water bottle. Their water-consumption progress was monitored each week via email.
Participants saw an average 33% increase in water consumption and reported drinking over 33,000 ounces of water. They also reported reduced numbers of plastic bottles used, overall feeling better, improved digestion, improved skin, less snacking, reduced headaches, lower blood sugar and increased energy. Behavioral changes included being more conscious of beverage choice, increasing quantity of water consumed, being more accountable for quantity consumed and being more aware of the quantity consumed.