by Emily Neuman
In the last 30 years, annual availability of bottled water has increased from 1.6 to 25.4 gallons per person. Ninety-five percent is non-sparkling, domestic water. Of that, about 40 percent is simply tap water in a plastic bottle.
Consider these facts about bottled water:
Despite the financial and environmental costs associated with bottled water, the market for it is growing faster than any other segment of the beverage industry. With steady growth and healthy margins, beverage companies have enthusiastically embraced water sales and are aggressively segmenting the market.
Responding to concerns about the environmental impact of the bottled water industry, a new segment has emerged: greener water. Bottlers of tap water—also known as purified water—have not yet jumped in, but spring and artesian water bottlers have. Nestle’s Poland Springs brand sells an EcoShape bottle, featuring the lightest plastic bottle on the market. Fiji Water has announced a multi-faceted program to reduce the environmental footprint of its product. Icelandic Glacial vigorously markets its Carbon Neutral certification and natural source.
Despite these changes, and no matter the source, for the sustainability-minded consumer it might be time to switch back to the tap. Marketing campaigns and “sustainability efforts” do not erase the basic conundrum: Is it ever sustainable to spend non-renewable resources on bottling and shipping water to people who already have access to water through their own tap or well?
This spring, the Hanover Recycling Committee published a fact sheet on bottled water with the town’s annual report. They gently reminded Hanover citizens about the town water system and encouraged residents to choose town water over bottled water. In October 2006, the town began using a new filtration system. According to the town water report, the water has been reliably fresh and clear ever since.
The local foods movement encourages us to support our local agricultural system and to get to know our local farmers. The Co-op has enthusiastically embraced this movement and is a great source for locally grown foods. We can only hope that local water is the next big thing. But don’t count on us to start bottling it. Next time you’re at the Co-op and thirsty, take a free drink—at the fountain. It’s cold, it’s refreshing, and it’s local!
Little Green Steps:
we’re in the habit of drinking bottled water, too. Recently, though, we’ve made some changes and shifted back to the tap. We served tap water, rather than bottled water, at Dairy Day this year. We will switch to serving tap water, rather than bottled water, at staff meetings. The Co-op’s Wellness and Sustainability Coordinators are cooperating on a program to encourage staff to drink tap water at work in reusable cups.
Bottled water can be divided into two broad categories: purified water and all other water. Purified water is processed tap water. The Co-op carries four brands of purified water: Dasani, Aquafina, Nestle Pure Water, and Shurfine. Other water includes spring water, mineral water, and artesian water.
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