Americans are always on the go. Between home, school, work, and play, our rapid lifestyles make portable and pre-packaged goods very appealing. The bottled water industry’s success is a direct exploit of this notion of necessity and convenience. But while bottled water may seem like the answer to our need for water-on-the-go, like everything else, there is a catch. A pretty big catch, at that: Roughly 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles (including manufacturing and transport) each year. Bottles that are not recycled contribute to the over 3 billion pounds of waste that end up in landfills (and fun fact: plastic takes about 700 years to break down, so those 3 billion pounds of waste will be sticking around for quite a while).
Do single-use water bottles still sound appealing? Maybe so. The industry has done a good job of convincing the public that bottled water is cleaner and safer than tap water. And at face value that would make sense. Of course the water bottled from majestic mountain sources is going to be fresher than the water coming out of my dirty kitchen sink, right? Actually, what many people don’t know is that over 40% of bottled water is bottled from municipal water sources. That’s a fancy way of saying almost half of bottled water on the market is bottled tap water. Another little known fact about bottled vs. tap water? Bottled water is considered a consumer good and therefore regulated under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while tap water, a public good, is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Consequently, tap water, despite the public opinion of being more contaminated and unsafe, actually has stricter regulations for health and safety than bottled water does. So, in fact, tap water is safer than bottled water.
Still not convinced? Maybe consult your pocketbook. In 2009, Americans spent $10.6 billion on bottled water, almost 1,000 times the cost of tap water (ouch!). Still, many will claim that the convenience outweighs the cost. But there are many environmentally friendly options out there, such as refillable/reusable water bottles, which conveniently provide you with the same water you would otherwise be paying for, at a fraction of the cost.
greenspace offers many options for sustainable alternatives to single-use water bottles and other disposable goods. Klean Kanteen products, for example, are a convenient, affordable, stylish, and more environmentally friendly way to drink water. You can make a difference (and even save a buck!) by limiting your purchases of plastic water bottles, reusing and recycling the ones you do use, and buying a refillable water bottle to take with you when you are on the go.