The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

August 10, 2009

Green Moms speak out on Bottled Water

As a member of the #Blogher09 Green Team, I had the privilege of participating in a conference call with one of the Blogher Conference’s largest sponsors: PepsiCo. Why did the Green Team want to speak with Pepsi? Because in addition to peddling sodas and other flavored drinks, Pepsi has gotten into the bottled water business. Its brand is Aquafina. And we felt that Pepsi’s bringing Aquafina bottled water to the BlogHer conference would undermine the steps the Green Team had taken to encourage attendees to carry their own reusable bottles and to drink the local tap water.

In preparation for our meeting with Pepsi, the members of the Green Team as well as several members of the Green Moms Carnival wrote posts about the problems with bottled water. The conference is over, but bottled water will continue to be an ongoing issue, so I thought I would share with you the other posts these highly intelligent and articulate women came up with.

Green Team Members:

Anna Hackman from Green Talk asks, Are Recycled Plastic Bottle Products Really Eco Friendly? For years, she thought that recycling was the simple answer to the bottled beverages problem. After some research into the chemicals that could leach from the bottles into recycled products, she wonders if avoiding the bottles in the first place is the better answer.

Diane from Big Green Purse offers two posts. In Bottled Water Not as Safe as Tap Water, says GAO she reiterates the findings of the Government Accountability Office, that bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water. She then goes on to ask, “Can Pepsi Learn From 7-11?” She says, “Every day, millions of people make their own Slurpees at 7-11 with nary a complaint. I haven’t met a person yet who is not capable of putting a cup underneath the Slurpee faucet and filling up. Why not figure out a way for people to bottle their own Eco-Fina water in the same way?”

Lisa from Condo Blues gives us 6 Bottled Water Alternatives, proving that drinking from the tap can be every bit as convenient as drinking from a disposable bottle, with less waste.

Sommer from Green & Clean Mom wants us to Say No to Bottled Water and to ask ourselves a few questions before grabbing that next bottle of water from the supermarket shelf.

And if you’ll recall, my own post was Bottled Water Problem: It’s Not Just the Bottle! in which I ranted about water bottlers and how they’d like us to believe the only issue is the plastic bottle.

And finally, Alicia from The Soft Landing presents 3 Myths About Bottled Water Exposed, challenging the notions that bottled water is cleaner, more affordable, and more convenient.

So, what was the result of that conference call? Pepsi listened and agreed to the letter of our request. They did not bring Aquafina to BlogHer. The Green Team was elated! Unfortunately, Pepsi did bring all kinds of sugary flavored waters instead, Sobe Life Water being the sponsor for one of the cocktail parties. *Sigh* Should I console myself that progress is made in baby steps? Or is this naive? Either way, we have our work cut out for us.

Water. It’s a huge issue and will be more so in the coming years as clean sources of drinking water become scarce. Do we really want to put the safety of this precious resource into the hands of a few private bottlers? Or is clean water a public trust and right for all people, rich or poor?

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13 years ago

I don’t know if you go back and look at the older posts, but here goes… There’s on factor that no one has yet mentioned in all of these posts about the dangers of bottled water, at least not that I’ve seen so far… IT EXPIRES! The bacteria and things in the water that is sold in those wonderful toxic plastic bottles actually becomes MORE unhealthy over time. Furthermore, when they do expire, they’re not dumped out so that the bottles can be recycled; They are tossed water and all into a dumpster to head to a landfill. Last time I checked, the water from my tap doesn’t expire or have to be thrown out… and if a house has laid dormant for a while without water being used, you run the tap for a few minutes to flush the lines where it goes down the drain to be processed through our sanitation systems and eventually become… you guessed it… water.

Carol R.
13 years ago

Check out what singer Jackson Browne has to say about bottled water. He has great ideas on saving the planet.

14 years ago

Just stumbled onto your site…love it. Regarding Keri's post on the organic alternatives, while Green Planet demonstrates their product reduces the reliance on fossil fuels, using plant-based raw materials (corn) introduces other complex moral, health and economical issues. Crops use chemicals/pesticides, crops are subsidized for outdated reasons and using crops to create single serving containers instead of providing food to the hungry in our world seems strange. I guess progress in some areas comes at a cost for others. Net, net, I'm not sure these alternatives are the answer–it is consumer education and accessible (healthy) public water supply with a reusable container–the primitive cup or canteen.

I must commend Green Planet on their initiative and progressive approach to keeping the bottles in the recycling stream; they offer redemption for empty bottles. Our school is trying to introduce Green Planet bottled water into our lunch program to promote an environmental initiative. Green Planet will provide a 50 cent redemption on every case of empty bottles returned by the school and the redemption proceeds will benefit the 8th grade class.

State legislators should take note of this practice and use more funds to provide redemption and less to maintain the landfill those empty containers create!

Peter H
14 years ago

Until very recently most Conferences and meetings I have ever been to used water jugs, with ice if necessary and glasses. that is no big deal. Sure, a bit of water might be wasted if not used…..but hey, it is simple and easy.

why do you need a water sponser anyway?? surely the venue "sponsers" [ or provides] the TAP water!!

BTW……in many places around the world, tap water can taste ghastly, if legally ok. That does open an option for bottled water, and a necessary one too.

It is not always a one dimensional debate.

Diane MacEachern
14 years ago

As another member of BlogHer's Green Team, I have to say I felt cheated when I arrived at the conference expecting to celebrate the lack of plastic water bottles only to find they were there – filled with flavored water instead of "plain." That was frustrating! Even more frustrating is how many conference-goers didn't have a problem with the bottles at all. We can only blame companies for so long – consumers are fueling demand for these products. We need to shift our spending to greener, cleaner alternatives. Thanks for a great wrap-up of the controversy.

14 years ago

Hee hee- you bloghers! Wouldn't it make more sense to get a company to provide reuseable Kllen Canteen style bottles and have the hotel provide water in those big water things that look like coffee pots? Of course I just bought a "Green Canteen" Love the thing. It is made in China though so I may be losing points on buying something transported god knows how many miles made by children working in a sweatshop. Sometimes you can't win!

Farmer's Daughter
14 years ago

Thanks for the idea, Beth. I'm not sure how that would work with high schoolers. Perhaps I'll ban all water but let them go to the water fountain whenever they want. Being a science classroom, it's totally reasonable to ban water.

I'm not sure if they'd all remember the reusable bottles. They never forget their cell phones or ipods, but calculators, notebooks and pens (the things we actually will use!) are tough.

John Costigane
14 years ago

Hi Beth,

Plastic bottles, in general, are worth avoiding simply for the waste destination they mostly have.

One aspect I notice is the extensive use of these bottles in sports events, eg tennis. Seeing all the top names using them can only reinforce their 'good' image for the general public. This type of activity should be questioned perhaps by contacting the stars to suggest their using sustainable alternatives. If one did so the others would likely follow suit.

Advertising is hugely negative for other situations with top sportsmen promoting a well known brand of razor, with its ever-recurring waste output to consumers.

Zero Waste requires the questioning of these items, as many already are. The more the issues are raised the better the impact.

The Mom
14 years ago

I'm glad that Pepsi listened to you to a certain degree. It's amazing to me that in such a short time people have been brainwashed to believe that water from a plastic bottle is easier and safer than the water we've been drinking forever. Why is it easier to buy a huge case of water, lug it home, store it, and then dispose of it. It seems to me much easier to turn on the tap and put a glass or reusable metal bottle of your choice under it.

Josh Patel
14 years ago

It is simply great that you could get a giant like Pepsi to listen to you. This battle against bottled water is really important for the health of millions.
Just stumbled and submitted your site to Viralogy. Hope you get some great traffic from it. Your blog is here

– Josh

14 years ago

We do have a right to water. Water is transient and it is for everyone. Have you seen "Flow: For the Love Of Water". The documentary discusses this issue exactly.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan
14 years ago

Appreciate the inclusion of my post and truly admire your tenacity and resourcefulness regarding this issue.

14 years ago

Hey Beth, great article! Thanks for bringing all of these issues to light. I think we are starting to see changes by consumers but with so many bottled beverages on the market today it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are some companies trying to make a difference by offering organic alternatives. Green Planet Bottling, in Chicago (loved your pics btw!), are making bottles made from Ingeo – a plastic made entirely from plants, not oil, and with NO chemicals. I hope more companies start looking at these Greener alternatives!!

Eco Mama
14 years ago

Just discovered you and have added you to my blog roll. Thanks for the information.

14 years ago

I am generally very very very against bottled water and bottled drinks. Except in one case: my infant. Our municipal water is fluoridated and the levels are toxic for kids under two years of age. the NRC and most formula companies now, finally, warn against giving children fluoridated water.

Because I can't nurse for medical reasons of my own my baby must get formula. And until the water coming out of my tap is fluoride-free my daughter will be getting formula mixed with Poland springs which has some of the lowest natural fluoride levels. I buy it in the largest 2.5 gallon container I can, I only go through 2 month, and I recycle it. it kills me to buy water but my kid's developing brain is my priority now. -kate

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Anonymous. I have to disagree with you very strongly about ONE spring water in the Tetra Pak. Please read the articles in this list. Many of them show why the issue of packaged water is much more complicated than simply the plastic bottle. Tetra Paks are not a solution. Tap water is.

Hi Farmers Daughter. That's a great question. Can each child be issued their own reusable cup or bottle? When I was in elementary school, we lined up at various times during the day to use the drinking fountain. I'm wondering what's wrong with that method.

Farmer's Daughter
14 years ago

I've been thinking on the bottled water issue lately. In our school, it's against the rules to eat or drink in the classroom, with the exception of water, which is up to the teacher's discretion. I'd love to allow only reusable water bottles, and outlaw plastic water bottles in my classroom, but I'm not sure if my school would allow it. As the environmental science teacher, I feel I need to be a leader in our school, but I also don't want to deprive kids of water, especially when the cafeteria sells bottled water. Perhaps I could keep paper cups in my room, but that would just contribute to waste.

Have you got any ideas, Beth? I could outlaw water in my classroom altogether, but then I couldn't have mine :)

7 years ago

We require the students to have a stainless steel water bottle they can refill anytime . It is allowed in the classroom and we do not allow bottled water ? It works well !

14 years ago

This is a superb comprehensive list of articles to read through to get a grasp ont he overwhemlming debate about bottled water. Thank you for sharing.

14 years ago

Great post as usual Beth! Thanks for your dedication! :)

14 years ago

hopefully next year, we can bring ONE Spring Water in Tetra Pak to the event.

14 years ago

The book Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royte is a valuable read. It really covers a lot of aspects of the bottled water issue.

Personally I feel that privatizing water supplies is a terrible idea. Water shouldn't be a commodity.

14 years ago

I think it's positive that Pepsi listened to you – that alone is a step in the right direction and a good sign. You're not being dismissed as kooks or something of the sort. But it is really disappointing that they brought other bottled drinks, and flavoured water in particular. I think the flavoured waters sort of play into and contribute to the overall idea that water isn't 'good'. It needs to be covered up with something else.

Hopefully, this is the beginning and more positive change will follow. The real challenge is getting other consumers on board. After all, Pepsi isn't going to sell things that we're not buying.

14 years ago

Hi Beth
I haven't had time to read through all the posts, but fully in favour of cutting out bottled water. I was most disappointed when I was told my daughter *had* to have a plastic bottle for drinking in school – it had to be see-through & non-breakable. I sense work to do here! (she never drinks it, mind, I could fill it with arsenic & we'd never find out *sigh* again!)