Consider Banning the (Water) Bottle

Bottled water ain't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, it's better than the alternatives you'll find in a Coke machine, but filling your own bottle with tap water is even better. An excellent, recent Lighter Footstep article gives us Five Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water. Here's an excerpt:

Bottled water isn't a good value
Take, for instance, Pepsi’s Aquafina or Coca-Cola’s Dasani bottled water. Both are sold in 20 ounce sizes and can be purchased from vending machines alongside soft drinks — and at the same price. Assuming you can find a $1 machine, that works out to 5 cents an ounce. These two brands are essentially filtered tap water, bottled close to their distribution point. Most municipal water costs less than one cent per gallon.

Now consider another widely-sold liquid: gasoline. It has to be pumped out of the ground in the form of crude oil, shipped to a refinery (often halfway across the world), and shipped again to your local filling station.

In the U.S., the average price per gallon is hovering around $3. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, which puts the current price of gasoline at fraction over 2 cents an ounce.

And that’s why there’s no shortage of companies which want to get into the business. In terms of price versus production cost, bottled water puts Big Oil to shame.

No better than tap water
In theory, bottled water in the United States falls under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration. In practice, about 70 percent of bottled water never crosses state lines for sale, making it exempt from FDA oversight [...]

 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 means garbage
Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, 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.

Thanks to its slow decay rate, the vast majority of all plastics ever produced still exist — somewhere.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Meanwhile, I'm very happy to let you know that the Linden Hills Co-op is taking a stand. Here's their recent press release related to bottled water:

Linden Hills Co-op is eliminating all still water in plastic bottles smaller than a gallon from its shelves as of November 1. The co-op’s Green Team’s mission is to propose changes that will help Linden Hills Co-op reduce waste, lower its carbon footprint, and lighten its environmental impact. Composed of staff from every store department, the co-op’s Green Team provided the facts and impetus that merchandising manager Peter Doolan needed to make this decision.

Every year, the average US citizen spends over $400 on bottled water. This is 1,900 times the price of tap water, yet Americans still use an average of 28 billion bottles of water yearly. Of those 28 billion bottles, 22 billion end up in landfills (where it then takes 300 years for the plastic to biodegrade). The production of bottled water, according to the What’s Tappening website,, uses as much as 17 million barrels of oil—enough to fuel a million cars for an entire year.

Strong support for this change also comes from the Federal and local government; in July, researchers with the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group urged Americans to make bottled water “a distant second choice” to tap water. And in Minneapolis, is a city-funded effort to encourage citizens to take the pledge to drink tap water.

Using reusable water bottles may be a big lifestyle change for some of co-op shoppers, so to support them in making the switch, Linden Hills Co-op is offering free refills on any personal-size reusable water bottles from its reverse-osmosis water machine from now until December 2010. Drink up!

Linden Hills Co-op is at 2813 West 43rd Street, Minneapolis. Call 612-922-1159 for information, or visit the website: