Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blah Blah Bottled Water

Reasons to break up with bottled water from the Conscious Shopper

While ranting to my mom about my personal peeve with the overpackaging of otherwise green products, I mentioned that I had written a letter to Seventh Generation asking why their paper towels are wrapped in plastic although their toilet paper is wrapped in paper. My mom replied, "I don't even know where to find Seventh Generation paper towels."

I thought my mom hit on a major point. Many, many Americans are in the same boat as my parents, who live in a small town in Kentucky. They want to be more environmentally conscious, but the only place to shop is Walmart, and their town doesn't even collect recycling.

Luckily, there are still things they can do, and one of the simplest green steps they can take is to break up with bottled water.

I can already hear the protests:

"But my tap water isn't clean!"

The truth is, at least 40 percent of bottled water is tap water anyway, and most tap water meets the EPA's standards for water quality. But if you're still concerned about the cleanliness of your tap water, you can always buy a filter.

"But bottled water is more convenient!"

Buy a reusable water bottle. Get a nice stainless steel model, or go the No Impact Man route: recycle a glass jar. Seriously, if my kids can learn to carry a water bottle with them when they leave the house, you can do it too.

"I already reuse my water bottle. And then I recycle it."

Kudos on the reusing and recycling. The problem here is that the plastic used to make water bottles (PET) is not meant for multiple use and can lead to nasty stuff like bacteria and chemical-leaching.

"But bottled water tastes better!"

Okay, if you really like the taste of plastic, you've got me there, but at least consider that tap water costs on average .2 cents per gallon. That's 750-2700 times cheaper than bottled water. To find out how much money you're wasting on bottled water, check out this bottled water cost calculator from the New American Dream.

Need more reasons to give up bottled water? Peruse the Break the Bottled Water Habit challenge from the New American Dream and watch the movie Tapped.


A version of this post originally appeared on my personal blog, The Conscious Shopper, on October 22, 2008. Since I wrote it, I've added another item to my list of personal peeves: Attending so-called "green" events that serve bottled water. This drives me crazy! Or going to advocacy meetings with other greenies who are drinking bottled water. I remind myself that not everyone is on the same green level as me and that I am certainly an imperfect greenie myself. But still...carrying a reusable water bottle is such a simple step. It's like Going Green 101.

If you're still drinking bottled water, please consider obtaining a stainless steel water bottle. You'll recoup the cost after 10-20 uses. Simple, green, and frugal!


Eco Yogini said...

yay Klean Kanteen!!! I never thought i'd be a water drinker, but buying the klean kanteen has changed my life (dramatic hey? lol).

water is a human right and shouldn't be bought and sold like a commodity.

Olivia said...

Just one point - not ALL tap water is potable. Case in point - we live in a rural agricultural area where runoff has resulted in a high nitrate level as well as, occasionally, a high e-coli and coliform bacteria count. The e-coli and coliform we can deal with by annual flushing of our well with Javex but there is nothing we can do about the nitrates other than to install either a complicated and very expensive ultra violet osmosis filtering system or digging a new well - which might not solve the problem - it's a gamble. Therefore, we buy bottled water in very large containers and refill them for drinking purposes only. I wish we did not have to do this but unless someone would like to pay for the other options, which we cannot afford, we have no other choice. I do fill a stainless steel bottle to take with me when I go out although only if I am gone for a long period of time. I have spent most of my life not having to drink vast amounts of water on an hourly basis, as seems to be the fad nowadays and I still find I can carry out my normal activities without unmanageable thirst.

I agree that, if your water is safe for drinking, then by all means do so and lay off the bottles but sometimes I get irritated by the one-size-fits-all approach to environmental problems.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

i've been told that because of pesticides, tap water in long island is linked to breast cancer, which is why ppl i know there are afraid to drink the water and drink bottled water instead. i suppose there are filters that can filter out pesticides, but i think it would take a lot of research and convincing to give people peace of mind about that.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Eco Yogini - Yes, privatization of water freaks the crap out of me and makes me so angry, I feel a rant coming on!

@Olivia - Thank you for pointing out that there are exceptions in every situation. If I don't always mention them, it's merely for simplicity's sake.

@Julia - You can get your water tested to see if you need a filter, and thanks to Beth at Fake Plastic Fish, you can now also recycle your Brita filters. Plus, as I say in the post, 40% of bottled water is tap water anyway.

concretenprimroses said...

Good point. Bottled water is a rip off for many people. tho my city water doesn't taste as good as the wonderful wellwater I used to have years ago. I bought a selzer maker for dh and I for christmas, and one for my mom. We love it. No more throwaway plastic bottles! Not buying seltzer is a relief on many levels.

A caution to campers: do not take those nice stainless steel bottles winter camping. Water freezes really fast in them. Heavy plastic (in your sleeping bag with you at nite, and in your pack while youre hiking in the cold) is much better.


Wendy said...

It took us a while, but we finally made the mental and physical switch away from bottled water.

Now, we're lovin' our stainless steel water "bottles", but I think the idea of the glass jar is just fantastic. Who doesn't have or can't find glass jars? So easy!

Linda A said...

For those of you who have problem water, I received a stainless filtered water bottle called ech2o. It is from Ecousable.It would be a good solution for personal use.

Mary said...

I have the stainless steel bottles but I wish I had a top like yours for the kids. Did it come like that or did you find it separate?

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Mary - It's a brand of water bottles called EcoUsable. The one in the picture has a filter in it and comes with a flip cap, but the regular type of bottles have sports caps. I should be getting a couple to give away at The Conscious Shopper...I'm waiting for the company to send them to me.

Karen Moser-Booth said...

Nice! Erin, you might like this book: Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Karen - Yes, I have that one on my "to read" list. I loved Garbageland - Elizabeth Royte has such a great way of making a boring subject seem interesting.

Lisa Sharp said...

My husband likes his Klean Kanteens so much he uses them around the house.

Anonymous said...

I think a big contributor to the addition to plastic-bottled water, other than the agressive marketing by beverage companies, is the mistaken notion, pushed by "health" advocates, that grown adults need to walk around drinking water all day. Honestly, I see people lugging those bottles around and they morph into babies before my eyes. Unless one is exercising quite vigorously (QUITE vigorously- I can run for an hour with no need for water), there is simply no need for so much water. But we have bought in.

To those who buy bottled water because their tap water is undrinkable- what about a faucet filter? They last quite a long time. the PUR brand filters chemical as well as biological toxins, and lasts for many months, at a cost of about $29 (less with discounts and coupons). Surely that's less than buying bottles of water and SO much less waste.

Michelle said...

I know this post is about water, but I wanted to add in my 2 cents worth about Seventh Generation. They may claim to be green, but they are loaded with chemicals, one in particular - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - which is known to cause cancer. Just thought I'd post this for anyone who's been duped by this company.


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