Saving the Earth One Bottle at a Time

One sustainable health issue that has always been near and dear to my heart is doing away with bottled water. Growing up, my Dad bought bottled water every week at grocery store. At that point, I didn’t think much of it; I didn’t know much about the use of plastics and all of my friends parents did the same thing. My Dad made these purchases out of habit, while I remember my best friend’s mom saying she did it out of concern for the quality of the water.

As I got older, I learned about recycling and sustainability and began to question purchases such as bottled water. I knew from the point of view of the Earth, it didn’t make sense to be using this much plastic when there was a way around it. I began to use a metal reusable water bottle and fill it a few times per day by tap. I felt good about my decision, but still wasn’t educated enough to answer people’s questions when they asked me if the tap water was more damaging to consume than bottled water.

In college, I decided to gather more concrete facts on the topic. I took a class called Political Economy of Food in which our final project was to complete a commodity chain analysis on a product of our choice. I chose to analyze the commodity chain of Poland Spring water and learned loads about the environmental impacts of the bottled water industry.

According to Recycle Across America, “Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour” (Recycle Across America 2016). Regardless of the recycle symbol slapped on each bottle, National Geographic found that, “more than 80% of recyclable plastic bottles end up in landfills each year” (National Geographic 2010). These statistics shocked and scared me for our planet.

Next, I explored how the bottled water industry is yet another toxic product of capitalism and detrimental to everyone’s wallets. According to Nick Colas, who is ConvergEx Group Chief Market Strategist, “Water [is] about $1.22/gallon nationwide and 300x the cost of a gallon of tap water. If we take into account the fact that almost ⅔ of all bottled water sales are single 16.9 oz. (500 mL) bottles, though, this cost is much, much higher: about $7.50 per gallon, according the American Water Works Association. That’s almost 2,000x the cost of a gallon of tap water and twice the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline” (Boesler 2013).

The price of bottled water is a ridiculous tax with no benefits attached. Tap water actually has to go through a more rigorous process of certification and having extra minerals in your water actually benefits the consumer! The myth that bottled water’s sanitation and purification process makes for healthier water is just that- A myth!

Water being bottled and sold for increasing prices, as is the case with Poland Spring, perpetuates and magnifies many social justice issues. Charging for water at all (especially at $2.00 per bottle) creates a reality where people in situations that prevent from them accessing clean tap water, are not able to afford fresh water, an essential aspect of life. Placing a dollar value on a necessity drives the gap between rich and poor to unbelievable new heights. When people need to purchase their families’ vital needs, they are forced to be employed at any job they can get, even if it’s at a place that perpetuates their own suffering and environmental degradation. Such places include Poland Spring Water, which has numerous plants throughout Maine and employs hundreds of thousands of residents, while simultaneously fighting locals on their ability to pump large amounts of water from the aquifers and pollute the air with the coal they use to power their plants.

Universal access to clean water is an issue that must be attacked on a systematic level. To mitigate this issue, I can push my government representatives to vote in favor of all people getting equal opportunities to their basic human rights, such as water access. To limit the plastic use plaguing this planet due to the bottled water industry, I can educate people on the benefits of recycling and how to go about recycling. I can also pass along my knowledge that there are no health benefits to using bottled water to better conquer this myth that is detrimental to our environment’s health!

Sources Referenced In this Post:

Boesler, Matthew. “Bottled Water Costs 2000 Times as Much as Tap Water.” Business Insider. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

Karlstrom, Solvie, and Christine Dell’ Amore. “Why Tap Water is Better Than Bottled Water.” National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.