Published On November 18, 2013 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles

Encinitas city staff members won’t be handing out disposable water bottles to thirsty City Council members anymore.

And in the coming months, the city will be exploring new ways to reduce the public’s dependence on the plastic disposable bottles, Encinitas council members said at a meeting Wednesday night. Expect to find more reusable water bottle filling stations at city parks as a result.

As TV cameras rolled and a smattering of local environmental advocates looked on, council members said they couldn’t believe how much media attention their water bottle issue has received in the past few days.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who had proposed the city find ways to reduce the use of disposable water bottles, said she was stunned by the number of news stories and Internet commentary that resulted.

“My initial request, I thought was fairly simple, but it got a lot of attention,” she said.

Shaffer stressed that she was only asking Wednesday for the council to stop using bottled water at public events, and then to start contemplating ways of getting the public to cut its consumption.

“So this is just limited to us?” Councilman Mark Muir asked.

After Shaffer answered in the affirmative, council members agreed to direct city employees to stop offering them disposable water bottles during off-site council meetings. The council already has a policy of using refillable water bottles during its regular sessions at City Hall.

Shaffer said she raised the issue because she was dismayed to see disposable water bottles offered at a recent council session at the city’s community center. Councilman Tony Kranz said he drank one of those water bottles, adding, “I should have refused, but I needed that hydration.”

Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said the council only has held a few off-site meetings in recent years, so their disposable bottle use hasn’t been significant. However, her physical therapy business is a strong supporter of refillable bottles, she added, laughing as she proudly held up one of her company’s new bottles for the TV cameras.

Mayor Teresa Barth said the media attention that the issue has gotten has been a good thing because it’s allowed the public to weigh in on water bottle use.

All but one of the half-dozen people who addressed the council Wednesday night supported the city’s efforts to reduce disposable water bottle use.

“We appreciate your leadership to keep plastic out of our marine environment,” Roger Kube, chair of the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, told the council.

The lone opponent, Encinitas resident Greg Lefevre, said he agreed that plastic water bottles were an “annoyance” but said the council had more pressing issues, such as the condition of Birmingham Drive.

Declaring a “jihad on plastic is very easy to do — it’s low-hanging fruit,” he said.

Debate over the use of disposable plastic isn’t over yet in Encinitas. Next week, the council will discuss an Encinitas Environmental Commission recommendation that city phase out single-use plastic bags, City Manager Gus Vina said.

[via UT San Diego]

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