Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eight Dollars a Gallon . . . For Water

When I was growing up there were no disposable water bottles. You drank water from the tap at home. If you were away there were water fountains. At softball games someone would bring a cooler of a drink and cups. Ditto for picnics.

I ignored bottled water when they made their appearance—thinking them wasteful and expensive—until I had kids. Then I had to deal with the old “but everyone else uses them.” When I researched it, I found my gut was right.
Convenience may be a good argument for disposable water bottles, but drinking safer or better-tasting water is not. U.S. municipalities test their water and have among the safest in the world. (40% of bottled water comes from the tap anyway.) In blind taste tests, most people could not tell the difference between bottled water and municipal water.

Let’s look at convenience. Instead of grabbing a bottle of water, you’d have to fill a reusable water bottle. That’s it! For me, it’s worth that minor inconvenience in order to be a good steward of resources for my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Bottle Water and Resource Use
 Much petroleum and water is used to make the plastic bottles themselves.
 17 million barrels of oil are used annually in the U.S to transport water bottles to their destinations—enough to fuel some 100,000 cars for a year.
 Discarded bottles are often littered or sent to landfills. Even the 20% that are recycled are actually “downcycled”—not used to make more water bottles, but other products like chairs and toys that can’t be recycled at the end of their life.
 It’s expensive! Drinking water from the tap (eight cups a day) might cost less than 50 cents a year. Compare that to how much one spends on water bottles. People complain about gasoline prices. The price of bottled water per gallon (based on $1.00 per one 16 oz. bottle) is $8.00 a gallon. From a tap, an average price is $ 0.002 per gallon.

Alternatives to disposable water bottles
 Use a water fountain.
 Carry reusable water bottles, such as stainless steel ones made by Klean Canteen or SIGG.
 For meetings, use pitchers of tap water.

For tips on breaking the water bottle habit, go to the Center for a New American Dream: http://www.newdream.org/water/index.php


  1. my husband used to love to buy Italian sparkling water. It brought back memories of our time there and didn't cost much more than regular soda water. But then we found out how bad it was to have barges and container ships carrying tons of this water to us, in plastic and glass containers. He rarely buys them now, we both feel much too guilty.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more, for all the reasons you gave, and then some. Now, how to convince the younger (that is, not retired) set! First, let's advocate for more water fountains in public and corporate places, and for school fountains that work better. Just before our grassroots group hosted our 3rd annual Earth Day Fair event at our local middle school, they (coincidentally?) replaced their badly-functioning fountain in the Cafeteria with a new crisp, cold water fountain!

  3. I agree. Here in FL however, tap water has much too much chlorine in it, especially in the summer when they have to "make it safe." I don't buy bottled water, but I do filter it. I'm happy to say that I've convinced a few co-workers to give up buying the bottled water. For those who still think bottled water is better for you -- check out this website from Annie Leonard (who did the Story of Stuff): http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/