Monday, December 17, 2007

Back to the tap: good for your wallet, good for the planet

If you ever doubt the power of good marketing, look at the bottled water industry in America. This country, which has by far the largest supply in the world of clean water available to its citizens, leads the world in consumption of bottled water. The ultimate irony: more than a quarter of that is simply bottled tap water.

We spend more than $15 billion a year on bottled water in the United States. Bottles of water costs up to several dollars a gallon (and more for designer brands). Tap water, on the other hand, is delivered directly to homes and offices for less than a penny a gallon.

From the Earth Policy Institute:
In contrast to tap water, which is delivered through an energy-efficient infrastructure, bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single-serving plastic bottles made with fossil fuels. Just manufacturing the 29 billion plastic bottles used for water in the United States each year requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil.

After being filled, the bottles may travel far. Nearly one quarter of bottled water crosses national borders before reaching consumers, and part of the cachet of certain bottled water brands is their remote origin. Adding in the Pacific Institute’s estimates for the energy used for pumping and processing, transportation, and refrigeration, brings the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States to over 50 million barrels of oil equivalent-enough to run 3 million cars for one year. If everyone drank as much bottled water as Americans do, the world would need the equivalent of more than 1 billion barrels of oil to produce close to 650 billion individual bottles.
Fortunately, there is a movement toward tap water. More from the Earth Policy Institute:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents some 1,100 American cities, discussed at its June 2007 meeting the irony of purchasing bottled water for city employees and for city functions while at the same time touting the quality of municipal water. The group passed a resolution sponsored by Mayors Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, and R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis that called for the examination of bottled water’s environmental impact. The resolution noted that with $43 billion a year going to provide clean drinking water in cities across the country, “the United States’ municipal water systems are among the finest in the world.”
So how easy a choice is this to make: by choosing to forgo bottled water and instead drink from the tap, you can save money and reduce waste and fuel consumption. I call that a no-brainer.


Anonymous said...

Try carrying your own safe tap water for your daily hydration in a Swellz TapSack. The product will easily carry the water that you are accustomed to while on your journey. The TapSack is collapsible so as you consume the water, you will not continue to carry the bulk with you. Works well while out hiking as well. The Swellz is a latex interior with a leather exterior. Fun and customizable.
Check it out at
Live well, drink often.
be swellz,

Sue J said...

thanks for the tip, Marsha. I checked out the website, and these TapSacks look pretty cool. Anything that is re-usable like this is a great alternative to buying bottled water.

Anonymous said...

I agree, sounds good, but people with latex allergies beware.

Sue J said...

O.K., always good advice!