Bottle Ban at the Grand Canyon by Jennifer Smith

Over winter break, I met up with a high school friend who told me of the adventures he had while hiking in the Grand Canyon a few weeks prior. He and a group of friends drove from Oklahoma all the way to the Grand Canyon in one night- approximately 1020 miles!! He said that once they finally arrived and opened their car doors, they were immediately overwhelmed with a surge of fresh air and beautiful scenery. The Grand Canyon’s welcome to pure nature was more than compensation for the long, grueling drive.
I, myself, visited the Grand Canyon about 4 years ago. Based on my memory and my friend’s stories, it is hard to imagine litter appearing in and around the canyon- much less the actual act of littering. However, according to a New York Times article, littering in the park has caused enough of an issue to introduce a ban of all disposable water bottles.
However, Coca-Cola (who has donated more than $13 million to the parks and distributes Dasani bottled water) expressed a concern about this ban. This concern caused the bottle ban project to be tabled until Mr. Jon Jarvis, the top federal parks official, called off the ban, explaining, “My decision to hold off the ban was not influenced by Coke, but rather the service-wide implications to our concessions contracts, and frankly the concern for public safety in a desert park.”
In the grand scheme of sales worldwide, I don’t think this would cause Coca-Cola much economic discomfort. Although, fewer water bottles would be purchased, sales of soda and juices at the national park would remain the same (if not increase as a result of the ban on water bottles). Logically speaking, it makes more sense to carry one re-useable water bottle to refill at water stations or use a water filter when camping at the Colorado River in the basin than to buy multiple water bottles at the rim and end up hiking with all of that extra weight.
This rejection of the bottle ban project is quite disheartening to me. If a national park with as many visitors and as much majesty as the Grand Canyon chooses to opt out of an easily sustainable move in order to appease a corporate sponsor which ultimately causes 30% of the park’s total waste stream… what hope is there for individual communities with less beauty to lose? I suppose this is where “blind faith” comes into play. Faith that those who visit the Grand Canyon have enough respect of the land to recycle their bottles- assuming they are competent enough not to litter.

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