H2NO

While volunteering in Ethiopia I stayed in the capital city Addis Ababa. Addis is at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level, which typically can cause a person to feel tired, sleepless and out of breath as you try to acclimatize to the elevation.  I was staying at Cheshire Services for the week which is surrounded by mountains making for a ton of walking. The combination of acclimatization and physical activity made me very thirsty. The only problem? The water is not safe to drink.

As you can see, I ended up drinking A LOT of bottled water during my one week stay. In this particular case I was forced to drink bottled water, which I am normally highly against. I agree that the market for bottled water in Ethiopia and countries with unsafe water should exist, but I am opposed to this market in Canada, as you should be as well.

Here are some not so fun facts that have dissuaded me from drinking bottled water in Canada.

  • It takes 3L of water to produce 1L of bottled water
  • Tap water is tested at least once a week whereas bottled water is only tested around 3 times a year
  • To meet North America’s water bottle ‘needs’ more than 17 million barrels of oil a year are used (that can fuel 1.3 million cars for a year!)
  • Bottled water=garbage: 1.5 million tons of plastic are created from bottled water each year; or that is to say 75% of bottles end up in a dump
  • In the U.S. it would cost $0.49 per year to consume the recommended 8 glasses of water a day from the tap, whereas it would cost around $1,400 to consume the same amount in bottled water
  • The big name companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCO and Nestlé have all faced legal cases regarding their water quality

Almost all Canadians have free access to water that comes from taps through our homes, jobs, and recreation facilities. Bottled water costs more, pollutes more, and exploits more, yet many people, including my roommates, insist on only drinking bottled water. Corporations have for a long time been linked to many issues regarding bottled water. An example of this is seen through Coca-Cola’s H2NO campaign. This upselling campaign aimed to dissuade consumers from drinking tap water, but instead point them towards Coke’s more profitable options including soft drinks, juice, or even bottled water. As a result people were sold previously free water, and sold unhealthy options.

I would like you all to join me in saying H2NO to bottled water.

Comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

4 thoughts on “H2NO

  1. Really enjoying the blog so far, 21st Century Explorer. I was wondering if you could offer your thoughts on this interview Kim E. Jeffrey gave with the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/03/business/03interview.html). He made the claim that the increased surge in bottled water consumption has been from the sugary beverage industry, rather than tap water drinkers. He also makes the point that bottled water is more environmentally friendly than soda bottles and other sugary drinks.

    • First off thank you for sharing your views on the topic!

      I agree that Nestle’s water bottles are more environmentally friendly than soda and other sugary juices’ bottles, but this does not make the water bottle itself environmentally friendly as they still make up an astonishing amount of waste.

      I would argue that the increased surge in bottled water consumption is not from the sugary beverage industry, but rather from the convenience that a bottle provides. In relation to this convenience, devising a solution that meets this need, rather than fights it, could be argued as paramount. Consequently there are various things that can be done.

      1. Standardize water bottles (similar to the way soda cans and many beer bottles) to ensure that they can be more easily recycled. And if you’re standardizing water bottles why not just go ahead and make a deposit on them to promote recycling (ex. beer store + LCBO bottle return).
      2. Promote/enforce serving tap water within restaurants as many people feel they can only purchase water. This relates back to Coke’s h2NO campaign.
      3. Contract bottled water production throughout cities to ensure bottled water is produced locally and therefore less green house gas emissions are created. An intriguing option would be to just implement taps in recreational areas and public places that are sponsored by brands such as Coke or Nestle. The brand name associated with the tap might encourage more consumption (this option may be a little extreme-i’m just spit balling here).

      Even so I prefer the strategy of showing people the negative aspects of bottles and encouraging them to drink more tap water as this is, by far, the best and most sustainable option! Finally, this interview was conducted on the chief executive of Nestle’s waters and i am a little weary of the bias behind his answers. He has everything to gain in saying drinking tap water in not a good option and drinking bottled water is ‘environmentally sustainable’.

      Thanks Simon!

  2. Ben, I wrote an eerily similar post on this last year as well: http://theindevidual.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/tapd/

    While the bottled water industry is indeed ludicrous to a majority of the population it is of no concern at all. I think the difficulty in the issue comes a lot from a lack of education of the general public. We can throw these facts at people, but many people really don’t comprehend the actual impact they are having by choosing to drink bottled water. The question that then arises is, how do we approach this? It is evident that something drastic needs to be done, but what? and how?

    Alas, the life of an indev student is always an uphill battle…
    Cheers

    • Hey Danielle! Glad i’m glad i’m not the only one with these thoughts, thanks for the reply!

      As I was researching this issue that is also what I found. Recently in San Francisco though they have taken drastic measures and banned all bottled water. This is pretty cool, but I heard just last night on the radio that 7 out of 10 people in San Francisco are actually very upset over the ban. Maybe the city will now do a follow up program of educating everyone on why they banned it? Probably not, but at least the ban is a step forward! Hopefully some more cities step up and follow their lead.

      Ben

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