Plastic water bottles have joined overly packaged, overly processed, air-flown food and plastic bags in the minefield that is our modern supermarket. Those of us trying our best to do the right thing for the well being of our planet and our families have for a long time been refilling our reusable bottles from the kitchen tap. Chilled and served in pretty glass bottles from the local pound store, I have to confess that I actually do prefer my London tap water over many of the varieties on sale at hugely inflated prices in the supermarkets.
However it was while in the kitchen one evening filling a bottle to serve with the family meal that it occurred to me that in the midst of my efforts to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics, I had overlooked the great privilege of having the choice between tap or bottled water at all. In fact like a lot of people, I think we take safe drinking water in our home completely for granted.
In 2010 one in eight of us - almost a billion people in the world do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Forget the luxury of being able to make a conscience driven choice between tap and bottled water. Many of these people are forced to walk up to four miles each day to reach the nearest supply of water or quite simply go without. In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking to collect water.
It is the women and children who usually have to collect their family’s water. Not only do they have to walk for miles in hot barren regions to the nearest source, but also when they get there the water is often unprotected and is likely to make them sick. Unsafe water and the lack of sufficient hygienic living conditions cause 80 percent of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren't strong enough to fight diarrhoea, dysentery, and other illnesses.
In the build up to Christmas we all receive many requests to donate money to charity or to buy gifts from charity shops and mail-order operations. It has certainly paid off. In recent years I have found myself much more interested in foregoing the cost of mailing Christmas cards and gift wrapping endless pairs of socks and woolly scarves for friends and family preferring instead to give the equivalent sums of money to organizations that I am keen to support.
WaterAid is an international non governmental organisation that uses practical solutions to provide access to clean water, hygiene education and safe sanitation to the world's poorest communities. WaterAid now works in 26 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. It does simple, effective things that transform communities, like building freshwater wells, rainwater catchments, and sand filters. Its projects enable communities to achieve a better quality of life and escape the spiral of poverty and its focus on equity and inclusion ensures that its work reaches even the poorest and most marginalised people.
The best part is how we can participate just by donating a little of the money that we might be planning to spend on some of the unnecessary paraphernalia that we seem to have built up around Christmas.
Yes of course it is a good choice to reuse and not keep throwing away all those plastic water bottles. However even better, is playing some small part in helping to bring easy access to the same safe water that we take for granted every day as well. So in the quest to take your yoga off the mat and into the world around us why not donate the gift of water this Christmas.