Bottled water is simply an indulgence for western culture, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. The USA alone are moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks. Picture this, that is the same as 37,800 full size trucks delivering water a week. Water is heavy, so heavy in fact that you can’t fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water–you have to leave quite a lot of empty space.
Fair to say, that one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. So our global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water “varieties” from around the globe, not one of which we actually need. Lets repeat that… “none of which we actually need!
A chilled plastic bottle of water in a shop fridge is the perfect symbol of modern day consumerism and the laziness for western culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, ignorance for health related issues and environmental problems.
OK, it’s just a bottle of water, I can hear you saying so what, this has no impact compared with the indulgence of driving a bullet proof Hummer. A whole industry has been created to supply us, Australians, Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Kiwi’s… any nation for that matter with safe drinking water something that we dont actually need. And we keep on buying it.
We buy bottled water because we think it’s healthy. Which it is, of course: Every kid who buys a bottle of water from a vending machine instead of a bottled of Coke is in-arguably making a healthier choice. But bottled water isn’t healthier, or safer, than tap water. Its the same thing. Its just water. Consider this… If the water we use at home cost what the cheapest bottled water costs us, then our monthly water bills would run around $9,000.
Considering half the price of a typical $2.00 bottle goes to the retailer. Around one third goes to the distributor and transport. Another 15 to 20 cents is the cost of the water itself, the bottle and the cap.We are just lining pockets. Chris Guillebeau wrote an article that saving $2 a day will take you anywhere you want to go in the world within 2 years. Most people I know spend a lot more than that on bottled water and complain they cant afford to go anywhere for their holidays. Maybe they should subscribe to Chris’s insanely good blog.
The label on a bottle of Fiji Water says “from the islands of Fiji.” Take a trip to the source of that water, and you realize just how amazing that promise is. From New York it is an 18-hour plane ride west (via Los Angeles) almost to Australia, and then a four-hour drive along Fiji’s two-lane King’s Highway. Every bottle of Fiji Water goes on its own version of this trip, in reverse, although by truck and ship. In fact, since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles’ journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation–which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it. What a joke.
We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year–in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
Bottled water is not a sin. But it is a choice. Once you understand the process and resource used to create and deliver the bottle of water, ask yourself this question “Does the $2 I am about to spend equal the impact I’m about to leave behind?” Especially when your kitchen sink is available every morning ready to refresh.
Simply asking the question takes the carelessness out of the transaction. And once you understand where the water comes from, and how it got here, it’s hard to look at that bottle in the same way again.