How many times have you seen pallets of bottled water coming off the forklift at the grocery store, and felt your stomach turning in disgust? Never? Not once? That's not enough! You should be sick. When you see soccer coaches and construction workers throwing cases of little plastic water bottles into the back of their SUV, your stomach should turn. Bottled water is sooo not sexy.
Bottled water is plastic-wrapped with more bacteria than regular tap water, and less fluoride, according to university researchers. More than 60 million gallons of petroleum are used annually to make the 38 billion containers Americans throw away. Each and every one of those is destined for a landfill, or for the ocean. At the rate we're going through water bottles, there's going to be enough plastic to form a new impermeable sedimentary layer in Earth's substrata. Then we'll really be in trouble.
Fortunately, America's eco-sexy* water retailers are coming to rescue North America from the new dark ages. Nestle (Arrowhead, Poland Spring) and Coca-Cola (Dasani) rolled out new designs to reduce the plastic weight of their bottles by 30%. The Oakland-based Brita Company and Waltham, Mass. Nalgene Company recently launched a new campaign called FilterForGood to wean people off disposable plastic bottles altogether.
Meanwhile, Sigg USA is stocking the shelves at Whole Foods and REI with reusable aluminum bottles. Coming up at New York Fashion Week in September, runway models and stylists working for seven different designers will carry Siggs filled with tap water under a deal inked with Aveda, a unit of Estee Lauder Cos. that is sponsoring the enterprise. Slinky models with aluminum cans full of tap water? Now that's sexy....
*According to the online Urban Dictionary, the term EcoSexy refers to any product or company that adheres to 'Big 3' of new sustainability:
1. It has to be ecologically sustainable
2. It must be socially responsible
3. It has to be cool.
Photo above lifted from The Goode Life, a cool fashion blog with a green eye
LA Times runs the full story "On the Anti-bottle Bandwagon" here.
Last spring I got a stainless steel bottle. I fill it from the tap or from the water cooler at work. Who knew I was at the head of a trend?
While I'm all for kicking the bottles water habit -- and use a Sigg water bottle myself -- I'd find the "Filter for Good" campaign a little more convincing if Nalgene wasn't a sponsor. Considering the toxicity of their own product, this looks more like corporate greenwashing than anything else.
Actually, I'd be interested in finding out if the Brita water filters and pitchers are also made with polycarbonate, and hence probably leaching Bisphenol-A into the water to replace the stuff they take out...
OK, looks like Brita pitchers aren't made of polycarbonate after all, thankfully. I just made a post about this in my own infrequently-updated blog:
"The energy of manufacture of reusable cups is vastly larger than the energy of manufacture of disposable cups (Table 1). In order for a reusable cup to be an improvement over a disposable one on an energy basis, you have to use it multiple times, in order to "cash in" on the energy investment you made in the cup."
Nothing says sustainable like runway models and fashion...
I'm all for reducing bottled water. But it's not without merit. Specifically, when it is bought as an alternative to bottled sodas or juices, not as an alternative to tap water. When would that happen? When traveling, or sightseeing, or otherwise not near a reliable source of water. Do you suck on the public restroom tap in the gasoline station or do you buy a bottle of water?
Bottled water defintely has merit. It's become more essential even, but could be done better, perhaps, with a modern equivalent to the wineskin or the old tin canteen.
Ironically, the tap water here in Corpus Christi is under a 2 minute boil directive since yesterday due to an unidentified source of E.coli. There is a run on the market for bottled water. Grocery carts are full of them. Stores can't keep plastic bottles in stock. It's like a blogger's nightmare.
Perhaps Brita should seek municipal contracts.
Nothing says sustainable like runway models and fashion...
My thoughts exactly, Kevin, Peter. I feel another post [bitch session] coming on about the problem with mixing sustainability/conservation with celebrity/consumerism...
This is good, I suppose, but it just seems like a few token efforts, especially those coming from the companies who are profiting from bottled water.
Nick's take on the story over at at Scientific Activist is right on. Americans should emphasize municipal water quality because it's generally quite good. When I lived in New York City I always found the tap water quite delicious.
Unfortunately, municipal water systems are quite vulnerable. See my note about the E.coli scare here in CC, TX. There will always need to be a redundant public water system, and for now that is privatized system of commercially bottled water at ridiculous prices. I am suprised there isn't some"Newman's Own AquaVerite" up on the shelf for $3.99.
"Do you suck on the public restroom tap in the gasoline station or do you buy a bottle of water?"
Janne, that's gross. you never do that. take your hand, make a cup with your palm. run the water. put your hand under the water so that it curves upward.
I agree with you - however there is fault in your logic if you take it far enough. If you assume that it is invariably better to use disposable products because they are better than reusable products, if they are both disposed of, then you are missing the point.
A product manufactured to be re-used, such as the cutlery in your drawer, the glasses in your cupboard, the shoes on your feet (apparently NOT the ipod...) will without doubt take more energy to produce - no way around this. But, if it lasts, as you quote, longer than the energy-input ratio then it is a better choice. I have lived in many places throughout the planet, and in every place tap water was both cheapre and better (more regulated, as the saying goes now) and in most cases (Africa excluded) bottled water was used because it was "cooler" than old fashioned tap water. Many people are caught in the tracks of throwing away any product if it is atainable enough - cheap enough - just for the sake of being rid of it. I am a lone highschool teacher who carries a coffee mug and water bottle (yes, nalgene) to school. My science dept peers constantly come in with to-go cups and use styrofoam in the office. And they are teaching our children morals of environmental management. And when questioned, it is because of ease.
Ok, i digressed a bit.
Nalgene, regardless of its leaching abilities now, was started with a goal in mind of stopping disposable products. An honest goal, and it if it is being greenwashed now, I cannot say. However, we must regain control of our products and support any attempt to ridicule the bottled water industry out of their service. The problem of bottles is a far more inportant issue that most people give it credit for, and I hope that those who are aware will keep on the task.
I am not completely convinced that your post was supporting disposable products, but I got that angle from it and responded as such. Hope this adds some ideas. My divergent point to be made is this - reuseable products are well worth the energy investment if they are used properly, wheras disposable proiducts are never worth their energy inputs. We need to stop disregarding reusable products as ones that, just might, last our lifetime. Clothing, furniture, mechanics, electronics fall under this catergory too, but ill stick to water.
Reusing is out of chic, and thus even reusable items are tossed in liu of newer and more sexy items - water included. I have seen people throw out nalgenes because it was not the newst colour.
Thoughts from a canadian....