From our trainer colleague and activist Ilze Jece (Green Alternative, Latvia)
Bottled water is healthy water—or so marketers would have us believe.
Just look at the labels or the bottled water ads: deep, pristine pools of spring water; majestic alpine peaks; healthy, active people gulping down icy bottled water between biking in the park and a trip to the yoga studio.
In reality, bottled water is just water. That fact isn’t stopping people from buying a lot of it. Bottled water is big business. But in terms of sustainability, bottled water is a dry well. It’s costly, wasteful, and distracts from the brass ring of public health: the construction and maintenance of safe municipal water systems.
While public safety groups correctly point out that many municipal water systems are aging and there remain hundreds of chemical contaminants for which no standards have been established, there’s very little empirical evidence which suggests bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than its tap equivalent.
Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. That plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away. That assumes empty bottles actually make it to a garbage can. Plastic waste is now at such a volume that vast eddies of current-bound plastic trash now spin endlessly in the world’s major oceans. This represents a great risk to marine life, killing birds and fish which mistake our garbage for food.
In the documentary film Thirst, authors Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman demonstrated the rapid worldwide privatization of municipal water supplies, and the effect these purchases are having on local economies. Water is being called the “Blue Gold” of the 21st century. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates, and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity’s most precious resource. Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.
There’s a simple alternative to bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos, and use it. Don’t like the way your local tap water tastes? Inexpensive carbon filters will turn most tap water sparkling fresh at a fraction of bottled water’s cost.