Bluewashing: The Truth Behind Bottled Water
For every liter of water that goes into a plastic bottle of water, two liters of water were used to make the plastic bottle and bottle the water. This eye-opening fact and others were published today in a new report from Food & Water Watch entitled, Why the Bottled Water Industry’s EcoFriendly Claims Don’t Hold Water.
In 1993, the United Nations established March 22 as World Water Day to focus on global water problems, but recently, the event has become hijacked by bottled water companies. The International Bottled Water Association in its press release titled World Water Day: Where Bottled Water Fits In said that “Bottled water is a healthy beverage that is produced by an industry with an outstanding tradition of environmental stewardship, protection and sustainability.” The American Beverage Association, with members such as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestle Waters North America, said it “commends World Water Day and efforts to improve water resources and sanitation throughout the world.” Nestle Waters North America issued its own statement “Supporting World Water Day and Beyond.” These companies cite their donations to water charities or efforts to reduce the amount of water that they use in their production as evidence of the leadership role that they are playing in addressing the world water crisis. Yet these activities serve as a distraction from the water problems associated with the product—a prime example of corporate bluewashing.
Next: the truth about bottled water.
- Spring water used for bottled water comes from environmentally sensitive areas.
- Groundwater pumping can cause water levels to decline both underground and in surrounding lakes, rivers and streams.
- As long as water bottlers profit from water, they have no financial incentive to reduce their total water consumption.
- Tap water has the lowest water footprint and the lowest carbon footprint of any beverage.
- In 2007, bottled water production in the United States used the energy equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil—enough to fuel about 1.5 million cars for a year.
- The manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, water extraction, bottling and distribution amounts to up to 2,000 times the energy cost of producing tap water.
- In 2006, only one out of every four water bottles were recycled; at this rate, millions of tons of empty plastic bottles end up in landfills.
- The distribution of bottled water uses energy and therefore contributes to climate change.
The bottled water industry’s attempts to sell itself as environmentally friendly cover up the real effects of the product and distract consumers from the most responsible source of water there is: the tap.
Many American consumers can see the truth behind the industry’s marketing tactics and are taking part in a nationwide movement to stop drinking bottled water. According to the College Sustainability Report Card, 23 college campuses had a disposable water bottle ban in effect as of February 2010. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in 2007 stating the importance of municipal water, and another resolution in 2008 encouraging mayors to phase out government use of bottled water. A growing number of municipalities have banned government spending on bottled water, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.
Event planners have begun hosting bottled water free events, and restaurants, starting in San Francisco, have stopped selling bottled water. As more and more people are turning their attention back to the tap, it is not enough to simply stop buying bottled water–the public must also invest in public water infrastructure so that tap water remains a safe, affordable source of environmentally sustainable drinking water. A federal Clean Water Trust Fund would accomplish this goal by providing a dedicated and steady source of funding for public water infrastructure that would allow municipalities and states to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to their water systems to ensure clean affordable water for all.
For a compendium of World Water Day information, please see Care2′s World Water Day page.
Food & Water Watch is an organization dedicated to the belief that the public should be able to count on our government to oversee and protect the quality and safety of food and water. For more information, go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org.