Bottled water: Part 2

Posted on September 11, 2009 by Steve

In the first part, we celebrated the economic benefits of extracting fossil water from exotic islands peopled with locals who sometimes get thirsty. But what about the environmental impact? Are we destroying the Earth by manufacturing innumerable plastic bottles from petroleum, trucking them and tons of water all over, and finally burying most of them in the ground? (Probably more than half, anyway -- see the EPA fact sheet, 506KB PDF.)

As is common with questions of values, the values in question are rarely elucidated. To me, the most important consideration is human happiness and well-being. With this in mind, I have to wonder whether a clean portable drinking water craze is such a bad thing. When bottled water was no longer provided at my office, I didn't see lines form at the tap, but various flavors of high fructose corn syrup in solution remained popular. Public water fountains get about as much use as public telephones.

To assuage the guilt of the water-craving and increasingly green masses, bottlers have started using extra lightweight bottles. Careful observation shows that these cannot withstand two drops from a high chair, and indeed beg to be trashed when empty. After buying my first six-pack of Fuji, I refilled the heavy duty bottles from our Brita and carried them around for weeks.

Not everyone has gone bottlephobic, thankfully. Lisetta, the accused hand-wringer of two years back, still enjoys a green bottle habit, even dismissing her carbon footprint on special occasions.

And Penn & Teller have not missed their chance to weigh in.