Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Don't bottle it when you're picking that 'healthy' water

Enestina Muyeye (9), from Malawi, who features on this year's
Trocaire box
Enestina Muyeye (9), from Malawi, who features on this year's Trocaire box
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

"Mammy, you're getting old now ... isn't it time to start dyeing your hair grey?" So asked our six-year-old daughter, Ruth, last week.

She is aware of girls colouring their hair various bright colours and, nobody having told her otherwise, she assumes that the grey is also by choice. To a child it makes perfect sense.

I have an older sister who has the good fortune to still possess the lovely red hair that she was born with, but my own hairdresser has been giving nature a helping hand every eight weeks for the past couple of years. This is not something I have ever hidden from Ruth, but the hairdresser is obviously doing a good job.

Her comment reminded me of the value of looking at things from a different point of view; I can't remember where I heard it, but a quote I often use is "the more you experience, the more you are".

The week before I had tried out a detox diet for the first time. I could hardly have been living on this planet not to have heard about the supposed benefits of detoxing. I wanted to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.

So off I went and got a three-day detoxification set of drinks, mainly fruit and veg.

They looked pretty unappealing, but actually tasted fine. I was never hungry at any point, though I never really felt satisfied either. My body was craving something, probably caffeine and carbohydrates.

On the second morning, my resolve nearly wavered. I felt a bit jittery and had a headache. But, by mid-afternoon that particular hump had passed and I saw it out handy enough.

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So did it work? Jungle juice jibes aside, in a word, yes. I slept like a baby and awoke refreshed.

My body felt lighter and energised, while my mind was clear and free of anxiety.

Then what did I do the fourth morning? Why, I baked up a great big batch of fruity scones, slathered them in butter and washed them down with a gorgeous cup of coffee. Though after that single relapse, I have tried to row back on the bread, ramp up the greens and am still feeling the better for it.

So would I do it again? Yes ... but for not a while.

Of course, I know it's all very well for me to be imposing a bit of hardship on myself out of choice. Many others do not have that luxury.

The notion of a secular lent, i.e. giving up luxuries such as chocolate or cigarettes can be criticised as being a pale imitation of the real thing, which is supposed to be about fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

But while it's true that this is more about self-aggrandisement, "amn't I great", than any glorification of God, I would contend that, whatever the reason, self-denial remains relevant today.

Anything that changes our lives for the better is a good thing. Maybe the intention is short term, but at least there is the chance that the good resolution will not end up just being for Lent.

Thus, I can't let Holy Week pass without mentioning Make Every Drop Count, Trócaire's 2014 Lenten campaign theme, which focuses on the global water crisis.

I could regurgitate a whole load of statistics about how 784 million people or one out of every nine people on this planet don't have access to drinkable water. Or how less than two out of every 10 people in Malawi have access to a flushing toilet. OK, I just did. But consider this; if everyone in the world consumed the same amount of food, water and material possessions as we do in 'developed countries', it would take three planets to cope with the demand.

And before your eyes start to glaze over, participating in the campaign doesn't have to cost you money, nor does it have to impoverish your life; it just asks you to stop for a moment and consider your actions.

One area the campaign highlights is bottled water.

I assumed myself that this would be fairly innocuous, but thinking about it, I can readily understand just how costly it is.

It is just over 30 years since Geoff Read was laughed at when he went on the Late Late Show to say how he was going to build a business around bottling and selling Irish water. Why would anybody pay for anything that they can get for free from the tap?

Yet here we are today, the bottled water business in Ireland is worth almost €250m per annum (rising marginally last year for the first time since the recession began) and more than $100bn worldwide.

The United Nations estimates that if given just one sixth of that money for one year, they could halve the number of people who don't have access to clean water.


Yes, of course there will be instances when it is necessary to consume bottled water because of some supply issue, but the demand for bottled water is effectively created by the companies who sell it.

We are made to feel unsure of the safety/quality of tap water, while bottled waters are portrayed as being fashionable and healthy.

In reality, the environmental costs of bottled water are massive, as they include extraction, bottling, transport and bottle disposal, with estimates that up to 80pc of plastic water bottles end up in landfill. Even if you don't give the money you save to charity, reducing your contribution to landfill will still help.

So when you are next heading out the door, grab an old water bottle and fill it from the tap. Or when you ask for water and are offered "still or sparkling", don't be afraid to say "draught".

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