Water bottles: an idea whose time has gone


-image from chris jordan’s “running the numbers”, which will be on display at the green man pavilion at Burning Man 2007

Want reasons? Pull up a chair….

Actually, this topic is tough to write about. Tough because I’ve got so much material, so many great ideas, so many compelling reasons why individual serve water bottles are an obscene waste of resources. I’ve been drowning, if you will, in forwards and tips about this. Which is why I’ve put off posting till now, hoping I’d get it all organized. But if I wait any longer, I’ll get that much more behind.

So, instead, here’s some highlights from a Fast Company story about water bottles, which should provide more than enough motivation for you to leave the single serve at home. Instead–get a five gallon jug, and decant it into a cup. Easy. Peasy.

“American’s went through 50 billion plastic waterbottles last year, 167 per person. Our recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles per year, more than $1billion worth of plastic.

In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesnt require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way,if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bill would run $9,000.

Aquafina (Pepsico) has 13% of the national market. Coke’s Dasani is #2 at 11%. Both are simply purified municipal water, so 24% of the bottled water we drink is tap water, packaged by Pepsi and Coke.

One of the most popular bottled waters is Fiji water. To reach your local store, it’s bottled at a plant running 24/7 on imported diesel fuel, then shipped 7,000 miles by sea, then trucked, then air conditioned at your local store…so that you can drink water

Want more? Ok, here’s a little something from the New York Times

The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead.

“More than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration — and in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills.

We could go on and on, but by now you’ve hopefully gotten the point, which likely you ( and we, and everyone else) already had: single serve water bottles are wasteful, indulgent, excessive, and just plain dumb. So don’t bring em to the playa. Instead, get a big jug, and decant from that. It’s easy, it’s cheaper, it uses less resources, and you can share. Point, Earth!

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.