down the drain

Every once in a while you read a transformative piece of writing. Maybe you read “Your Money or Your Life” or “Getting Things Done”, or Harry Potter. Sometimes reading these pieces of writing changes your thought process, and sometimes it changes your actions. For me, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” started a fundamental shift in my approach to finances. The Atkins Diet made me rethink food. “Natural Cures THEY Don’t Want You to Know About” made me consider the quality of the food I eat. So what am I leading up to today?

  • If I told you that in the world today 3,000 children die from an easily preventable condition – one that would take less than pennies a day to remedy – would you be outraged?
  • If I told you that a healthy, pleasant habit of yours requires 37,800 18-wheelers to drive cross-country every week to enable your habit and creates more than 20,000 tons of plastic waste per week, would you consider changing your habit?
  • If I told you that I would give you $500 each year for nothing, would you take it?

Think about those things. Changing this one harmless habit would save you money, reduce pollution and save lives, and all that would be required is a tiny shift in your approach.

I’m talking about drinking tap water instead of bottled water.

I read Bottled Water – A River of Money at MSN and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The article was filled with enough disturbing facts to make me read it twice, and here are some of the highlights from the article.

  • Across the world, 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water. Think about it this way: one out of six people in the world have no dependable, safe drinking water
  • About 1 billion bottles of water a week are moved around in ships, trains and trucks in the United States alone. That is a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. Water weighs 8 1/3 pounds a gallon. It is so heavy you can’t fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water — you have to leave empty space.
  • Americans drink more bottled water than milk, coffee or beer. Only carbonated soft drinks, at 52.9 gallons annually, are more popular than bottled water.
  • If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, five months and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35.
  • Pellegrino bottles, for example, are washed and rinsed with mineral water before being filled with sparkling Pellegrino. It takes 2 liters of water to prepare the bottle for the liter that’s sold.
  • Americans pitch 38 billion water bottles a year into landfills.

I made a few rough calculations and suddenly realized that if I ever buy bottled water again and there’s a fountain nearby, I am a fool. Bottled water wrecks the environment, wastes money and enriches no-one but giant multinational corporations like Coca-Cola or Pepsi or Nestle.

When you read things like this or the New York Times’ similar editorial, I imagine they either deeply affect you or seem irrelevant. Obviously people like me read about global warming but do not stop driving cars. Maybe you’ll read the article and then drink a bottle of Fiji water anyway. But I realized that this is one habit I will end today. Of course, there will be times when bottled water is convenient and necessary. But I intend to buy some sort of aluminum or never-disposable plastic bottle and fill up with filtered water when available, tap water when not and bottled water only when there’s truly no other choice. By doing this I will save money, help the environment and continue a healthy habit of drinking water instead of soda – at no cost to myself.

6 Replies to “down the drain”

  1. I drink bottled water almost exclusively. Spring water tastes so much better than tap water or purified water that it’s worth the cost to me. My parents live outside of the city so they have well-water, which is just as good, so when I eventually get a house hopefully I’ll have that option available to me.

    $1.35 per bottle is way too much to pay, though. I get 24-packs for $3.99.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jon. Sometimes the local water is preferable, although I would argue that purified water vs. spring water is usually a matter of taste. You can certainly get water cheaper than $1.35 per bottle, but the cost per bottle to the environment is the same.

    I think, though, that you’ve hit at the heart of the matter. Most people prefer the taste of cold, bottled spring water, and it’s a difficult preference to shake.

  3. Pingback: brip blap » Blog Archive » the water question
  4. I am not in the habit of buying bottled water. However, I can see why people in my city buy it – Jacksonville, FL has some of the worst – absolute worst – city water I have ever smelled or tasted. The water softened water that we have in our home still leaves horrible rings in the toilets and leaves marks on the dishes. We put in a reverse osmosis water filtering system into our home so we could drink the water without having to buy bottled water. I totally agree that bottled water is more of a fad than anything, but it is a fad that is sticking.

    I honestly don’t know what happened in the world where bottled water became the rage. It is a fashion statement I think. I did not grow up carrying a water bottle or a sippy cup for that matter. lol Water was to be had at home or from the water fountain or the garden hose. We didn’t carry it with us 24/7. I had allergies as a kid — I carried a kleenex box. I can’t imagine having to carry my water, too.

    Nice article – thanks for writing it!!


  5. Kristin – glad you liked it! Having been to Jacksonville, I’d agree with you. I do remember visiting Tampa a lot in my childhood and thinking the water was smelly – but we still drank it. I remember first drinking water from bottles when I was playing sports in college – it was just convenient. Unfortunately it has become ridiculous – people will walk past a free fountain to buy…$1.50 fountain water in a bottle. I read recently that millions of water bottles are thrown away daily, and the environmental implications are dreadful.

    I’m trying to stick to my aluminum bottle… so far I’ve been doing really well, and barely notice a difference!

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