Do you buy bottled water? Who doesn’t these days? It’s all around us – in grocery stores, restaurants, take-out joints, vending machines, convenience stores, and food trucks. The array of bottled water brands and types makes my head spin: spring, purified, mineral, sparkling spring, sparkling mineral, and probably a couple of others I don’t know about.
Like our habitual use of many other luxuries, we consume bottled water because we can. I’m focused on ordinary circumstances, not those after a natural disaster, when tap water is not available or there may be temporary concerns about its safety.
According to the International Bottled Water Association, in 2010 Americans drank an average of 28.3 gallons of bottled water per person. That is the equivalent of 110 bottle 1-liter bottles of water – or almost 215 of the 16.9 oz. size bottles. Figuring that some do not drink bottled water at all, that leaves the rest of the country drinking an astounding amount per person.
3 Reasons to Stop Buying Bottled Water:
Bottled Water is No Better Than Tap Water
Bottled water companies, through their trade association, claim that their product is highly regulated and subject to stricter controls than tap water. What they don’t say is that the bottled water regulations do not require disclosure to the water-drinking public of the source of the bottled water how pure it is, or whether testing has found contaminants. Even their initial assertion is dubious, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis of the regulations that govern both bottled and tap water.
The Environmental Working Group tested 173 bottled water products and issued a scorecard showing that 18% of those 173 waters did not list their source and 32% did not disclose information about purity or treatment. In another test, the Environmental Working Group found that Walmart and Giant brand waters were indistinguishable (except in price) from tap water. Food and Water Watch estimates that almost half of all bottled water in the US comes from municipal tap water supplies and that the trend is for more bottled water to come from the tap.
Plastic Water Bottles Pollute
Americans lead the world’s consumers in purchases of bottled water (no surprise there), adding 29 billion plastic bottles to the refuse on the planet according to National Geographic. It takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make those bottles – enough to keep 1 million cars going for a year.
The shipping of all those bottles creates global warming pollution too. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:
In 2006, the equivalent of 2 billion half-liter bottles of water were shipped to U.S. ports…. In New York City alone, the transportation of bottled water from western Europe released an estimated 3,800 tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere. In California, 18 million gallons of bottled water were shipped in from Fiji in 2006, producing about 2,500 tons of global warming pollution.
If you compare it to tap water, bottled water is an energy guzzler. One study cited by the National Resources Defense Council found that bottled water consumes 175 times more primary energy, almost 170 times more crude oil, and emits over 200 times more greenhouse gas than tap water.
Finally, the vast majority (almost 90% in one estimate) of the plastic water battles bought in the US are not recycled.
Bottled Water is Expensive
Whether you buy it in large or small plastic bottles, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that water is much expensive bottled than from the tap. How much more? The San Francisco Health Department calculates that bottled water costs about 300 times what tap water costs. Put another way (by Fast Company), if you bought a 17 oz. bottle of Evian for $1.35, you could refill the bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before the tap water would have cost $1.35.
Do you know who owns the brand of bottled water you drink?
Nestle Waters North America, a subsidiary of the Swiss Nestle Company, owns 15 brands, including Calistoga, Deer Park, San Pellegrino, Perrier, and Poland Springs. Danone Group owns Volvic and Evian. Pepsi with its Acquafina brand, and Coke with its Dasani water, together account for approximately 24% of the bottled water sold in the US.
Like any habit, buying bottled water may not be easy to give up. I don’t advocate going cold turkey if it will be life-altering for you or if there are circumstances when safe tap water is not available. But how about weaning yourself off of bottled water as your “go to” drink?
Once you get past the initial hesitancy of asking for tap water, you may be surprised at how accommodating most restaurants, take-out places and other food vendors are in offering free cold water to patrons. And if you use a backpack, other bag or briefcase, stashing a refillable water bottle means you can fill up anywhere you find a water fountain or tap. I found a cool reusable bottle, with a charcoal filter, for under $10.
If you don’t believe me, turn to my trusted source – Stephen Colbert.