Blue Gold: The Bottled Water Craze

December 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

Making $100 billion a year, bottled water has proved to be a compelling force in the beverage industry. I never really understood how something so simple, water in a plastic bottle, could be so compelling as to convince people to spend upwards from $1.00 on something you can get for nearly free without any extra effort. I admit, I occasionally give in to the convenience of flying into a gas station on the run and quenching my thirst with a bottle of fresh mountain spring water straight from the pristine wilderness of Alaska. After all, it must be worth the extra money right? As it turns out…it’s not.

First comes the cost factor. When worked out to price per ounce, bottled water is more expensive than gasoline by 3 cents per ounce. Considering the difference in what it takes to produce gasoline and the cost of production in comparison to putting water into a flimsy plastic bottle, that’s pretty astonishing.  It makes oil companies look like moral centers of business, which is a pretty difficult thing to do.

Next up comes the appeal that bottled water is more pure, clean, and ultimately better for you.  How can my tap water be better than fresh mountain spring water straight from the pristine wilderness of Alaska? It turns out they are different: my tap water is usually safer than what’s in the bottle, which usually comes straight from within the state you are buying it from. When the water stays within the state, it isn’t subject to FDA testing and states seldom have many regulations on testing bottled water. If the water does leave the state, the FDA tests it on a much less comprehensive scale and less often than city water. Tap water, on the other hand, undergoes  rigorous testing hundreds of times per month with a much larger list of contaminants to check for.  Read more about the testing of water here. Suddenly this little bottle of water is starting to feel much less like a convenience and more like a scam.

Lets consider the costs on the environment too. With more than 17 million barrels of oil used annually to transport bottled water and 2.7 million tons of plastic being used (which also takes about 40 million tons of oil during production), bottled water is a sustainability menace. Those convenient little bottles are recyclable though right? This is true, but only about 23% of discarded bottles are recycled each year. Unfortunately, most of the bottles end up in landfills or scattered wherever.

Many cities have begun to ban or at least limit city funds being used for bottled water and ban the selling of bottled water at city events and city property.  A while back I remember reading about a town in Australia actually banning the sale of bottled water in the entire town. The citizens had an almost unanimous vote for the regulation and it is definitely an example for all. Read their story here. The support of city water means that programs ensuring safe water are supported as well. The more you buy bottled water, the less attention goes to the upkeep of city water, which is essential to public health. Clean water is a backbone to a city, just think of the difference access to clean water makes in developing nations. By not supporting the bottled water industry, you are also fighting the privatization of water. Water is being called the ‘blue gold’ of the 21st century and it is important to try protect it and not make it into a commodity sold at 5 cents per ounce or sometimes more.

So next time you are out shopping, I challenge you to pick up some reusable water bottles and commit to limiting or even banning your purchase of bottled water. You’ll save money, resources, and be promoting sustainable practices and safe community water.

Read “5 reasons not to drink bottled water” to find out more.

~EnAct Intern Kayla Baake

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Entry filed under: 3 R's, consequences, conservation, consumption, sustainability, waste, water.

For the love of Vinegar- a blog by Greener Faster Participant Tammy Markee-Mayas Are you Sleeping Green?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Harry  |  April 14, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Although boiling is an efficient conventional
    water cleaning method, but it takes a long time to give an ultimate output.
    It is easy to move about with Berkey Water Filters anywhere.
    Reduction in waste of paper: paper should be recycled
    whenever possible.

    Reply

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