MIKE KEELER: Bottled Water – What Are We Thinking??

Mike Keeler

It’s poetic that the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day took place while Earth was completely shut down. Suddenly, with minimal industry going on, we’re seeing remarkable things like jellyfish swimming in clear channels in Venice, and the Himalayas being visible from parts of India that have rarely been able to see them before…

But while you are stuck at home, you may be somewhat challenged in accessing food and…water. To which, I’m here to help with…

Water consumption DUH vs. FACT. Ready?

DUH: Sometime in the last 10 years or so, we all decided that water that comes out of a bottle is purer than water that comes out of the tap. FACT: bottled water is a food, under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration, while tap water is regulated by the much stricter standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, so in most cases tap water is cleaner. Okay, fair enough, but – DUH – don’t most bottled waters come out of pure little springs that flow fresh from the ground? Well, the FACT is most bottled waters on the market are just tap water that’s been filtered, including the top two sellers, Aquafina (made by Pepsico) and Dasani (Coca-Cola). But at least it’s cheap, right? (Hint: DUH.) Bottled water is approximately twice as expensive as gasoline. (FACT.)

You want more DUH? Okay, how about the FACT that the act of making bottled water is extraordinarily wasteful of fresh water. Engineers have calculated that, to bring 1 liter of Fiji water from its source to market in the United States, approximately 7 liters of fresh water are used to make the bottle, bottle the water, and transport it (as well as a quarter liter of fossil fuels and a pound of greenhouse gases). And the thirst for sources of water that can be bottled is leading corporations to buy up any water they can find, denying millions of people access to safe and affordable water.

But all this compares to the great DUH, the mega-DUH, the “what the heck were they thinking?” DUH. The bottled water industry creates about 1.5 million tons of plastic per year. About 20% of that plastic is recycled. The other 80% goes into landfills or washes into streams and rivers. Much of it makes its way to the Pacific, and floats all the way to the Philippines. Then it gets caught in the North Pacific Gyre, which swirls it back into the center of the ocean, where it becomes part of the North Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a vast continent of DUH, already bigger than the continental United States. It’s out there, it will never break down, and it’s growing with every sip.

So here’s a crisp and refreshing stuck-at-home idea. Go to your kitchen. Turn on the faucet. See that clear liquid stuff flowing out? It’s called water. Drink some.

Otherwise the planet will be destroyed by DUH. And that’s a FACT.

Mike Keeler