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Soda & Sustainability

Image by FUNKYAH

According to Fast Company magazine, Coca-Cola fell short on one of it’s 2010 sustainability goals.

How bad was it? Not that bad…

The company missed out on its goal of returning all water used in manufacturing processes to the environment at a level that supports aquatic life by the end of 2010. What happened? Admittedly, Coca-Cola did come close to reaching its goal. The company estimates that 94% of system facilities were compliant with wastewater treatment standards by the end of last year. But unexpected challenges prevented the company from fulfilling its standards completely.

Given how much water the soda-making process is, I actually think Coca-Cola should be commended for hitting 94% this year. Much of the missing 6% occurred in countries where systems and processes for treating industrial waste just aren’t there yet.

The bigger question, I think, is whether or not soda can ever truly be sustainable.

According to Houston Chronicle writer Eric Berger, soda takes 2,200 times more energy to produce than it creates in nutritional value. Plastic bottles have become the preferred packaging, and because of that, we now have giant islands of plastic floating around in the world’s oceans.

Plastic bottles also leach far more carbonation than cans and glass bottles do, so they over-carbonate them. The sugar and caffeine in soda aren’t necessarily the worst things for you. The carbonation may be. It’s created by forcing carbon dioxide particles into the mixture. It can exacerbate osteoporosis and decreases the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream for several hours after consumption.

I love soda. My dad worked at Pepsi for many years, and I have a can of Pepsi at lunch several times a week.

What I’d love to see is the return of glass bottles. When I was in third grade, my family lived in Toronto, Canada, for a year. At the time, they had a very active bottle return program. The soda tasted a lot better because it was less carbonated and glass provided a better seal. The bottle was also rinsed and reused.

How do we get glass bottles back on the shelf?