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Jun 18, 2007

We don’t sell much but there, under the pastries is a line up of bottled water.

I’m considering making it disappear for this reason: By the elbow of our barista is a tap plumbed to Crystal Lake’s municipal water supply. Beneath the tap is a very high-end filtering system installed to improve purity to our espresso and brew machines. The filters eliminate the chlorine, fluoride and mineral taste of our municipal well water.

Does it make sense that we provide drinking water that is bottled in plastic or glass and shipped long distances, perhaps from overseas with the fancy waters sold by Evian and Perrier, and San Pellegrino. Spell Evian backwards: Naïve.

I surfed onto this topic because it is rising nationwide. Here Daniel Gross writes in Slate of the “Snob Appeal of Tap Water.” 

"It takes a lot of energy to create a bottle of water and ship it from
Europe to California. And so of-the-moment bistros can boost their enviro cred (sic) by giving away tap water instead of selling promiscuously marked-up bottled water (emphasis added)."

Interesting phrase "promiscuously marked-up." We sell standard bottled water for $1.60 in a 12 ounce bottle, which is the equivalent of $22 per gallon. Google up some fancy-labeled bottled water from a
Tennessee spring selling for $240 a case. If that were gasoline prices we’d all be pedaling and walking everywhere. Perhaps we should anyway.

Restaurants in San Francisco and New York (we do all know where trends start don’t we?) have stopped selling bottled water.

"Our whole goal of sustainability means using as little energy as we have to," Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn't make sense." (Gross cites this quote in Slate, too.)

The safety issue is probably a wash. Both bottled water and municipal water are regulated; the former by the Food and Drug Administration and the latter by EPA regulation. Put whatever faith in the government agencies that you wish.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) argues that health and safety regulation for municipal waters is more stringent than for bottled water.

NRDC also regularly cites poor performing municipal water systems. Bottled water isn’t without problems. In 1996, the Illinois Department of Health ordered a recall of Arkansas-bottled Natural Springs due to high coliform bacterial counts. In 1999, NRDC tested 103 bottled brands and found contaminates in one-third of the samples. The study unfortunately has not been updated.

Even Forbes, The Capitalist Tool, in April 2007 weighed in on the subject of bottled versus tap water and, essentially, called it a draw.

The debate is mostly about profits. We drink, on average, 26.1 gallons of bottled water a year, second only to carbonated soda. The tally: $10.9 billion.

Much of our perception is marketing. And, with $10.9 billion at stake, the marketing can get edgy. Nestlé’s Poland Springs brand was sued in 2003 alleging false labeling of its water as “spring water.” The suit alleged the Poland Springs spring dried up in 1967 and that the water being bottled was from drilled wells.

Adept m
arketing means we’ve come to believe that bottled water is somehow safer, better and, to some, fashionable. But bottled water is certainly not green, given the bottling and transport carbon costs.

So, I’m considering giving up on bottled water. In its place, I’m thinking of putting a nice ceramic water cooler, really simply a big jug with a spigot. Ice it up. Pour in the filtered water. Enjoy.
 What do you think? Do you think an honor payment jar would work? We do, after all, make a tidy bit of profit off of bottled water.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Monday June 18, 2007, 7:48 pm
Tags: water safety honor tap bottled payment [add/edit tags]

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Jack S.
male , married, 3 children
Wauconda, IL, USA
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