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Name: Betsy
Status: Other
Grade: Other
Location: IN
Country: United States
Date: March 2009


Question:
Is it better for the environment to buy sports drinks in a bottle, or the powdered product? On one hand, buying the drink mix and mixing it yourself saves a plastic bottle and shipping of water, but on the other hand, is the process of making the powder more resource-intensive than the process of making the bottled drink and shipping it?



Replies:
Hi Betsy,

I suppose the most environmentally-friendly option is not to buy the sports drink in the first place, since they are really of very questionable value.

But to your question: Most of the ingredients in a sports drink are solid in the first place. These drinks contain mostly just sugar, as well as very small amounts of several different salts, and some colorants... all of which are solids to begin with. Therefore it seems clear that selling the drink as powder in a foil pouch, is far more environmentally smart choice if one must use a sports drink at all.

Regards,

Bob Wilson


Betsy,

One way to answer your question is to look at the cost of the product to get an idea of its environmental footprint. Pre-mixed bottled drinks cost much more than the powders, so it is a good bet that they have a greater 'footprint'. In this case, the pre-bottle drinks cost more due to substantially greater transportation costs. If it were highly resource-intensive to make the powders, that would be reflected in their pricing; mixing powders is actually a very simple and inexpensive process.

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman


Hello,

Sport drinks are typically water plus some sweeteners (often high fructose corn syrup which is an artificially created sweetener) and perhaps some sodium, potassium, vitamins, etc. This sweetener, which is wildly used in the US, is the subject of some controversy about its impact on human health. Water quenches the thirst while the sugar in the drink helps feed the muscle and delay fatigue if one is engaged in a heavy workout. For moderate workouts, water is all that is needed, and besides, one can add a little sugar if desired.

In as far as the environment impact is concerned, perhaps it is best to carry the powder and mix it up with water as needed to avoid costs (fuel, pollution, bottle production, bottling, etc.) associated with transporting what is largely packaged water. Furthermore, disposal of plastic bottles, whether into a landfill or in a recycled plant, has some environmental impact. Most components of the power mix are originally in powder form, and my sense is that high fructose corn syrup liquid can be easily dried and added to the powder mix. So, if one has access to clean water, it seems better to carry the powder and mix as needed.

Some argue that sport drink is largely a fad and (except for people involved in long or strenuous workout or physical exertion) clean tap water is a superior choice for one's health and environmental impact.

Ali Khounsary, Ph.D.



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