Bottled Water Isn’t Good for You…

water in a bottle.jpgaccording to the Earth Policy Institute, citing environmental costs and the strain on family budgets.  Ounce for ounce, a bottle of water can be 10,000 times more expensive than what most Americans can safely get out of a tap.

Some of these numbers are startling: 

The study said that demand for bottled water soared in developing countries between 1999 and 2004 with consumption tripling in India and more than doubling in China during that period.

That has translated into massive costs in packaging the water, usually in plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from crude oil, and then transporting it by boat, train or on land.

“Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 US cars for a year,” according to the study. “Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.”

Once the water is consumed, disposing the plastic bottles poses an environmental risk.

The study, citing the Container Recycling Institute, said that 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States end up as garbage and those buried can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

In addition, some 40 percent of the PET bottles deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 ended up being shipped to China.

The study warned that the rapid growth in the industry has also ironically led to water shortages in some areas, including India where bottling of Dasani water and other drinks by the Coca-Cola company has caused shortages in more than 50 villages.

It said that while consumers tend to link bottled water with healthy living, tap water can be just as healthy and is subject to more stringent regulations than bottled water in many regions, including Europe and the United States.

On first blush, I’m sympathetic to this study’s findings. The fear so many people have of their municipal tap water is absurd.  We spend billions removing contaminants from water supplies, and the environmental regulations applying to water have only gotten tighter during the past 20 years.

Water that is safe enough for newborn infants to drink is mostly used to irrigate lawns, wash clothes and cool industrial motors.  That’s how committed our society is to healthful water. It seems wasteful to avoid drinking it.

Then I started thinking:  How much of the increased bottled water sales merely replaced sales of other beverages?  It seems to me that products like Dasani and Aquafina were Coke and Pepsi’s response to losing market share to Evian and Calistoga.

You can only hold so much fluid in your body. Are people drinking bottled water and soda pop?  Doubtful. If people shift from sugary, chemical-spiked sodas to water, that’s a healthier choice.

A better study might be to look at the total consumption of bottled beverages. Has it changed, per capita, since the bottled-water fad took hold? 

another canteen.jpgThe education campaign we ought to have is: If you’re thirsty, nothing is more refreshing than tap water. We know, scientifically, that’s true. Sodas just make your thirstier. If they’re sweetened with sugar, they can make you fat and trigger diabetes.  If sweetened artificially, you become a lab rat in a giant bio-chemical experiment. Water is the most efficient and healthful way to hydrate your body.

Maybe the real issue is how to make potable tap water portable, since the fundamental environmental problem is the disposal of all that plastic.  

Canteen holder.jpgLet’s make canteens cool  Canteens: Not just for backpackers, Boy Scouts and survivalists anymore. 

We should engage top fashion designers to create colorful, stylish canteens, and have flashy models carry them over their shoulders on the runway. Maybe Prada could come up with a combination canteen/purse. Imagine the impact on the environment if you could publicize a picture of Beyonce carrying around a hot pink, bling-studded canteen.

It’s my impression the bottled-water trend really got going in Los Angeles. I recall  Nora Ephron writing many years ago that the way you knew if someone was from Los Angeles was that they carried around a bottle of water. Now, perhaps, LA can lead the way with designer canteens. canteen-round-w-felt.jpg

Go ahead, use my idea.  Pay me whatever you think it’s worth.

2 thoughts on “Bottled Water Isn’t Good for You…

  1. The new REI in Santa Monica has some bee-yoo-tiful colors in Nalgene bottles. I carry my hot pink quart wherever I go. Washing it occasionally with a little soap and a squirt of diluted bleach keeps it clean enough for me.

    Disposable water bottles are an environmental disaster, though my kids say they are recycled into the fleece jackets that we also buy at the new REI.

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