What consumer beverage outsells milk, beer and soda, costs more than a gallon of gasoline, and is now being banned from sale in some U.S. National Parks?
If your answer was bottled water, give yourself a prize. And for many good reasons, it's time to lay off the bottle!
First off, what marketers claim is pristine and healthy is not what it seems. Nearly half of all bottled water is filtered tap water. This includes Coke's Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina. Both are 100 percent "pristine" municipal tap water. These companies bottle taxpayer-supported, low-cost city water and sell it back to consumers at huge profits.
Others, like Nestle's Poland Spring and Deer Park, bottle spring water cheaply sucked from small-town aquifers across America, sparking outrage and legal battles over corporate theft of public municipal water rights.
Studies reveal that your water at home is likely just as pure, clean and healthy (and significantly less expensive) than bottled water. The industry is largely self-regulating, with the FDA exercising minimal oversight over bottled water quality and safety.
Unfortunately, advertising trumps truth: Bottled water sales set an all-time record in 2011. We bought 9.1 billion gallons of the stuff! What began as Perrier's niche market in the '70s is now a moneymaking behemoth and environmental catastrophe. Of the 80 million disposable water bottles emptied EVERY DAY, only about 20 percent get recycled; the rest end up in the waste stream (bad!) or as litter (worse!).
Many tossed bottles find their way to the Pacific Ocean's floating plastic "Garbage Island." When you consider that all those bottles are made from crude oil, then the Pacific's watery trash heap - bigger than Texas (Editor's note: Size estimates vary) - becomes the world's largest oil spill.
What's a thirsty American to do? The same thing hikers, bicyclists and birders have been doing for decades - carry a reusable water bottle! Klean Kanteen, SIGG and Camelbak all make good ones. Reusable bottles annihilate the argument that plastic bottles are a more convenient way of getting your recommended eight glasses of liquid refreshment daily.
If the quality of your home tap water is questionable, try a range of filtering options - from filtering pitchers to faucet-mounted models or whole-house systems. All ensure quality drinking water.
Consumer demand propelled the rise of bottled water. Declining demand will be its demise. Come on, people are we so blind, so easily fooled, so lazy? Are we so eager to spend our money and scarce resources? This one seems like a no-brainer. Simple economics, better health and environmental well-being all demand that it's time we lay off the bottle!
Jeff Feldman runs GreenPath Consulting, a green building consulting firm in Shepherdstown, WV. Reach Jeff at GreenPathConsulting@gmail.com.