After years of serving bottled water, Ina's and other Chicago-area restaurants are now thinking 'outside the bottle' and serving only tap water.
While labels may conjure up images of pristine mountain streams, the truth behind the eco-friendly image is that bottled water is bad for the environment.
In 2007, the manufacture of plastic water bottles generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil.
Every year more than 4 billion pounds of plastic bottles end up in landfills or as roadside litter, and while some states have bottle-bill laws that extend to cover bottled water, the recycling rates for bottled water pale as compared to carbonated soft drinks.
For the last three decades, prominent restaurants have been used as a vehicle to promote this sadly wasteful product. And just like consumers, many of us have been lead to believe that what's in the bottle is somehow safer and more reliable than what is in the tap.
But the restaurant industry is now better educating itself, just like so many of our patrons.
At Ina's we now know that Chicago tap is more highly regulated than what comes in the bottle. We know also that as much as 40 percent of bottled water actually comes from the same source as tap water. And most of all, we know that here in Chicago we have some of the best tap water in the country.
And in the same way our restaurant is concerned about the source of the food we serve (i.e. we committed to trans-fat free oil years ago; we use only Davidson's Pasteurized Shell Eggs), our decision to stop serving bottled water derives from a concern about what is happening upstream, so to speak.
In addition to crowding landfills and contributing to global warming, the bottled water industry is threatening local control of public water. To put five dollar bottles of water on tables here, global communities are losing control of what was once considered a basic human right - something you couldn't put a dollar value on.
Here at Ina's we take pride in modeling best practices in the restaurant industry. And to do so, we've never been afraid of controversy. While we opened as a smoke-free restaurant in 1991, in 2006, Dan Rosenthal of Trattoria #10 and I formed a coalition to promote the smoking ban citywide. (We have always been cell phone-free as well!) We joined forces again last year to form the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op.
Cutting bottled water from the menu was virtually controversy-free.
Caring for the environment isn't always easy. Becoming a better social and environmental steward can be time-consuming and expensive. However, serving tap water is convenient and maintains our commitment to quality. Pledging to Think Outside the Bottle reduces waste, saves our patrons money, and protects the primary resource that allows our business to thrive.
We realize local restaurants play a significant role in how America chooses to eat so that's why we are joined other Chicago restaurants and eateries nationwide, in going bottled water free. I encourage other restaurants and institutions to join Ina's in becoming Think Outside the Bottle certified at www.ThinkOutsideTheBottle.org.
For us the move has been a 'no brainer' and goes very well with our buttermilk pancakes and amazing fried chicken!