Plastic water bottles are an easy target for environmentalist ire, and for good reason. The marketing and selling of bottled water has been one of the most successful commercial campaigns of the past several decades—and it’s helped add billions of tons of waste to ocean trash vortexes like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Meanwhile, the availability of free and clean water in public spaces is drying up, as drinking fountains are slowly and quietly phased out of urban plans. Even tree-huggers who do carry canteens can find it tricky to locate working public hydration stations to refill bottles brought from home.
When Los Angeles environmental activist Evelyn Wendel first learned about the ocean’s floating landfills several years ago, she started spreading the word like a reluctant physician in a hospital waiting room. “I tell people about the garbage patch,” Wendel says. “But I apologize when I do. I say, ‘I’m sorry to have to give you the bad news.’”