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Bottled Water

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Author: scienceman

It is not my intention to nag or blame bottled water drinkers, but it is my intention to create a more eco-conscious and aware consumer. If we want to turn around the way things are going on this earth, we need to take responsibility for our own actions and be more thoughtful when making choices. I can understand bottled water. It’s convenient, it’s ready to go, it offers a healthier alternative to the pop and sugar loaded beverages beside it on the supermarket shelf, and it complements our fast paced way of life. But what I cannot fathom is why from Fiji? Or Evian from France, or Iceland Water? This is one place I take issue. The other place is in the madness to buy as many disposable bottles as possible.

$1.69 for a 1.5 liter of FIJI water. Drinking one of these bottles daily, adds up to $11.83/week or about $615/year. It’s costly for the drinker and that is their choice, but additionally, it’s costly for the environment. To produce a bottle of FIJI water the plastic must first be shipped to the Fijian Islands, which means shipping plastic hundreds of miles over seas. Once there, the bottles must be manufactured and filled in FIJI’s state of the art water bottling facility, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Imagine the energy intensity of that! The electrical requirement is such that the facility requires its own three generators, which run on diesel fuel. Once produced, the water must then be shipped thousands of miles to the slim percentage of people whom can actually afford this high profile beverage. A bottle of FIJI water sent to Vermont travels over 8,000 miles. Just imagine the fossil fuels involved in this process, not forgetting the great density of water and the notion that the heavier the product, the more energy necessary to transport it. Given this, why is FIJI still one of the leading water distributors?

It is a perplexing matter, especially considering that while economists will report that the bottled water business stands at $16 billion this year ($1 billion more than last year), researchers will coincidentally disclose results of consistent testing where tap water is proven to be just as safe and clean as bottled water. As a matter of fact, the regulation of most tap water remains stricter than that of bottled water. Though people complain about the taste of tap water, numerous studies (though they are always bound to yield varying results based on individual preference) have shown that many people really cannot taste a difference between bottled and tap.

So why do we still buy bottled water? It’s convenient. You grab a bottle of water, you have an easy top to sip out of, you have a chilled beverage that fits in your cup holder, and it’s ready to go. Additionally, you buy the story and get the status of being an Evian drinker or a Fiji drinker – pretty chic, I guess. After all, why drink tap when we can get water that is drawn from an “artesian aquifer located at the very edge of a primitive rainforest, hundreds of miles away from the nearest continent” (FIJI) or our “natural source of youth” (Evian)? Sounds pretty nice. But what about the millions of bottles of Dasani and Aquafina that are sold? They’re made from the same water that is available to millions of Americans straight from the tap! And they don’t call me Scienceman for no reason – can we not dededuce from the fact that the water is from the same source that the ingredients will be chemically, nutritionally and calorically identical? Whether you turn on your faucet, or lay down two bucks for Aquafina, you’re still getting a load of hydrogens and oxygens down your throat. Unfortunately, we can’t. Dasani and Aquafina filter out all the minerals present in the tap water and add back minerals so the water tastes the same whether bottled in Atlanta or Seattle. Worried about trace chlorine disinfection products in your tap water? What about the monomers in the plastic bottle?

It is even more perplexing when projects such as The Water Project disclose facts that we spend roughly $100 billion on bottled water annually, when just one quarter of this would supply the entire world with a reliable and clean water source. Currently, more than 40% of the world’s population is deprived of safe drinking water. They should be the ones receiving bottled water until we get them reliable water sources of their own.

This bottled water business just seems a silly matter that symbolizes the modern American way of life. We want our water, we want it now, we want it chilled and we want the story - the promise of youth and the sensation of drinking straight from the source. We tend to overlook the reality of what went into packaging that water, just as many of us remain oblivious to the emissions released from our Hummers or the energy required to obtain our foreign meat. We forget that although the plastic used to make bottled water is recyclable, only about 23% of these water bottles are recycled. An estimated 38 billion bottles go into landfills every year, necessitating about 1000 years to fully biodegrade.

That said, please reassess the quality of your tap water and consider using it more. Filter it if you are worried about disinfection by-products of chlorination. Take a water bottle with you and fill up throughout the day. If you have to buy bottled water, get it locally. Lately, the hype is surrounding the Sigg bottle because it’s said to be safe, not releasing any toxic chemicals over time. But, a question for you Sigg users - does the water taste okay or like aluminum?

Please, give us your comments on what you think is the best way to transport and bottle your water. To misquote Capital One, what’s in your bottle?

For more information on bottled water business see these helpful sources:
Bad to the Last Drop
Bottled Water Isn't Healthier Than Tap
Message in a Bottle

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