I was eavesdropping on their conversation. I really didn’t mean to, but I found the idea of two college guys grocery shopping together for the first time comical. As one grabbed a huge case of small bottled water and lugged it onto the cart, the other called out, “I didn’t know you were so classy?”
Now, I had to get closer. The two guys, whose cart was full with regular college kid grub, like hot dogs and ramen, joked about bottled water being classy? I could tell by their tone and attitude, they meant it. They did not want to be known for drinking tap water. Most people agree with these two college guys that bottled water is classy, clean and convenient. But is it? And at what cost?
About 25 percent of bottled water is purified municipal water or tap water. The water they grabbed very well could have been tap water made to look classy with packaging and labels. For every one liter of bottled water, it takes three liters to produce (from the PacificInstitute.org). It took more water to process the one water bottle than the water inside the water bottle, which doesn’t include the 17 million barrels of oil used annually to make water bottles to meet the American demand. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) reported every person in America drank an average of 30.8 gallons of bottled water in 2012, a number that was up 5.3 percent from previous years. The billion dollar bottled water industry is forecasting more growth in the future. Are we really dumping billions of dollars into bottled water?
As I drove home, I couldn’t help but notice the new large eye-catching billboards from Ozarka water (owned by Nestlè) strategically placed around Dallas. The trendy designed billboards are hard to miss, and their flashy words like “sustainable” are easy to read as you breeze by. The word sustainable holds a lot of prestige but no criteria. Sustainable means, “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” But there is no criteria that Ozarka has to meet or certification process to go through to be able to describe them as sustainable. This current marketing by Ozarka is a great example of what the Natural Resource Defense Council describes as “marketing designed to convince the public of bottled water’s purity and safety, and capitalizing on public concern about tap water quality.”
The on label marketing that emphasizes the reduction in plastic used or addition of recycled plastic used to make the bottle is another example. Although all plastic bottles are 100 percent recyclable, only about 23 percent are actually recycled. And far fewer are reused a second time, filling them with tap water to drink again. Most water bottles end up in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to disintegrate. Or take a stroll around White Rock Lake to find another deposit spot for used water bottles.
I would argue my water bottle is classier than every disposable one-time use plastic water bottle out there. And the highest class water bottle are the new glass designs — the ultimate in fancy. But no matter what water bottle you choose, planning is key. Get in the habit of bringing your bottle everywhere, there are water faucets in most buildings and many now have a designed spout to easily fill up a bottle. Buy two and keep one in your refrigerator for the coldest of conveniences.
And lastly, the cost. I know those two college guys are on a tight budget, just like many of us are. I couldn’t help but think about what other beverages they’d rather be buying. Business Insider reports consumers are spending 300 times the cost of tap water to drink bottled water! Put the cash back in your pocket and ignore those huge eye catching Ozarka billboards.