Under the Sun
Celebrities' cred carries environmental message
NEWS MAGS, fashion rags and even celebrity wags are pointing to a war being waged on water, and they're not talking about naval battles.
They're reporting on the latest counter-trend among spangled stars to shun containers of the Earth's basic liquid, and if the nabobs of vogue are snubbing bottled water, the mimicking masses can't be far behind.
Americans are prone to imitation of the rich and infamous. In the case of bottled water, it wouldn't be a bad thing. Nor is it bad that fashion houses and uber-designers are turning out swanky totes in which to carry organic -- or at least locally grown -- broccoli from farmers markets, along with eggs laid by free-range -- or at least cage-free -- chickens.
Thriftier folks see through plastic. They know the water from the tap costs pennies on the sawbuck of bottled water that likely came from the same municipal source. While some products have "mineral" and desalinated stuff is promoted as ancient liquid from glaciers that melted thousands of years ago, most times water is water.
But it's not so much the contents as the containers that are drawing objections. Nearly 2 million barrels of oil is used to make the plastic bottles sold in the nation every year. Then there's fuel for filling bottles and transporting the heavy loads from plants to ports to wholesalers and stores. Even with recycling, more than 75 percent of water bottles flood the country's waste streams.
As celebs embrace fashionable totes as indicators of the chic and righteous consumer, cities across the country have banned or, like Maui and Baltimore, are considering limiting some of the 88 million plastic bags used in the United States annually.
Environmental groups have long recommended that consumers bring reusable bags to the grocery store instead of lugging home milk and cereal in flimsy, nonbiodegradable carryalls. Plastic's baggage is that the sacks don't break down easily and end up as litter or deadly faux food that chokes ocean creatures.
From the first Louis Vuitton bags that sell for six months' worth of rib roasts have come cheaper totes ordinary people can afford. Most island supermarkets sell them for a few bucks; one gives shoppers discounts for every BYOBag.
Buying local, championed by noted chefs seeking the freshest fare for their restaurants, has also been adopted by the celebrity set. Movie stars earnestly declare that the fruit on their tables came from farms no more than 100 miles away and demand to know where the microgreens served by caterers are grown.
Eco-conscious companies like Ben & Jerry's require that eggs for Chunky Monkey come from cage-free chickens, and the markets for humanely raised pork and hormone-free beef continue to grow.
Consumer fetishes come and go, but it seems a genuine movement is swelling for food production to be less harmful to the land and seas, and there is greater receptivity to reduce wasteful practices.
Though environmentalists have been ringing those bells for decades, when the glitterati put their arms around an idea, their influence in the media culture draws the attention of folks who hold the corporate purse strings as well as regular people. That's fine. How people come to hear the message isn't as important as the message itself.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org