Still or sparkling?
Apparently, that's not just a question for restaurants anymore.
Last week, proving once again that it really is the coolest city on earth, Paris unveiled a water fountain in one of its parks that serves -- wait for it -- sparkling water.
The move was motivated by a desire to make Paris greener. The average person in France drank 28 gallons of still or sparkling water last year, making this country the eighth biggest consumer of bottled water in the world, according to figures from the Earth Policy Institute. That's a whole lot of plastic waste (262,000 tons to be precise).
Apparently, the French are perfectly happy to drink tap water. But the major stumbling block is that they prefer it with bubbles. So, following on a successful experiment in Italy, the Paris authorities decided to meet the consumer where he or she lives ... and added some carbonation. (Before you go dismissing those frivolous Parisians, allow me to confess that I can relate.)
The fizzy French fountains (sorry, it had to be said) build on a revival of water fountains around the globe. Here in London where I live, Mayor Boris Johnson commissioned a special advisor two years ago to look into where public drinking fountains might go in the city and how much they would cost. About a year ago, a fancy public drinking fountain was unveiled in Hyde Park, the first public drinking fountain in this city in 30 years. Shortly thereafter, more fountains were installed at heavily trafficked rail and bus stations.
And it's not only in Europe where drinking fountains are witnessing a renaissance. In California, a new law requiring schools in California to have free drinking water available in cafeterias is awaiting the signature of Governor Schwarzenegger. (It's hard to believe that this has to be legally mandated, but there you have it.)
It's funny, but until I read about the fizzy fountain in Paris I hadn't stopped to realize what an endangered species the public water fountain had become. Back when I was a kid, they were quite literally everywhere. But somewhere along the way, we began to identify shared drinking fountains as a public health concern, even though there's no evidence for this (and some evidence that more bacteria live within bottled water.)
Now they're coming back. A combination of recession-induced economics coupled with the growing awareness about the environment has revived the idea that public drinking fountains might be a good thing.
I wonder what else we'll see come crawling out of our collective unconscious in the category of formerly-bad-but-now-we-realize-not-so-much. My money's on Crisco.