Greenwash Of The Week: Arrowhead Bottled Water Packaging.

May 6, 2009

A few weeks ago I was in the grocery store to pick up some ice cream and came across a display for Arrowhead bottled water. As I always do, I walked by it paying no attention, but then a splash of green caught my eye on the packaging. So I snapped a picture with my iPhone of the plastic wrap holding together 24 bottles of water:


Yep, they think that because their plastic bottles are recyclable, they are being green – and using that thought to try to sell you bottled water. Never mind the fact that American tap water is among the safest in the world, as much as 40% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is just filtered tap water anyway, and it can take nearly 7 times the amount of water in the bottle to actually make the bottle itself. Doesn’t sound too green to me, no matter what it’s packaged in. In fact, back in October, a report by the Environmental Working Group found that that there is a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand they analyzed. Looking for more reasons to stop buying and drinking bottled water? There are 12 of them. In order to truly green your water habit, pick up a reusable bottle that you can fill with tap water!

The lesson from this? Be on the look out for the greenwashing, it is showing up everywhere you look now.

Filed in: Green, Greenwash • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (20)

  1. The claims some companies make, in an effort to appear ‘green’, never cease to amaze me! Just about everything we buy can be recycled but that’s hardly cause for claiming it to be ‘green’ or eco-friendly. Disposable plastic bottles should be avoided at all costs! Great article ;-)

  2. david says:

    One would like to think so Michael!

  3. Michael says:

    I wonder if the recycle bin actually made it easier for oil tycoons to sell plastic packaging. I know that sounds crazy but think of it from a oil company spin doctor perspective…

    “plastic is green… look at all the wonderful ways you can reuse it.”

    “oil an renewable resource? heavens now look how we plastic can be used and reused.”

    (never mind the sea of plastic and the looming of peak oil… you folks just keep drinking out of your one-tiny-use fast food plastic drink cups)

    The sad truth is… we did it to ourselves by making too many bad choices, but we can choose more wisely and be better humans… right? RIGHT?

  4. David says:

    It’s there to sell the product; they dont care if you recycle it, as they dont use recycled plastic.

  5. No argument that their use of the word green is a misnomer, but what about the rest of the message?

    Were they to just have this message on the bottle as a means to educate and catalyze their customers to do something, would this be a different story?

    R

  6. David says:

    Jane, no amount of PR spin can cover the fact that your water comes in plastic bottles, 85% of which are not recycled by consumers. Telling us your bottles are recyclable doesn’t make your product “green”. We just don’t need bottled water when we can buy a reusable bottle that can be used for years and filled with perfectly fine tap water filtered at home. Sorry. Marking the plastic packaging with “green” labels, while it surrounds plastic bottles that are full of water that is very rarely any better than what we can get from home for mere pennies, is just greenwashing.

    Looks like folks in Colorado are not to thrilled with Nestle and their plans to take their water – http://coloradoindependent.com/28456/nestle-bottled-water-war-heats-up-in-arkansas-river-valley

    As for Nestle, well, please don’t get me started. You guys are adding DHA to Juicy Juice. Gotta wonder sometimes.

  7. Jane Lazgin says:

    Nestl̩ WaterӪs agrees that more needs to be done to reduce plastic packaging and waste. ThatӪs why weӪve reduced the amount of plastic in our bottles by 40% over the last 10 years. The Arrowhead Eco-Shape bottle you refer to uses up to 30% less plastic than similar containers; most of which, are loaded with calories and sugar.

    Contrary to what you suggest, there is a difference between what comes from a bottle or a tap. Public water is mostly safe to drink, but can occasionally experience a spike in pathogens or chlorine by-products. At Nestlé Waters North America, our spring waters, such as Poland Spring and Arrowhead, come from groundwater sources more isolated from these risks. When we bottle public water (for Nestlé Pure Life), we apply additional specialized filtration most public systems cannot afford, and extract elements that most at-home filters cannot remove.

    Lastly, I”™d like to point out that none of our bottled water brands were included in the Environmental Working Group report. Our reaction to this report is available online: http://www.nestle-watersna.com/pdf/NWNA_QA_EWG_study_101608.pdf

    Sincerely,

    Jane Lazgin
    Director, Corporate Communications
    Nestlé Waters North America

  8. Michael says:

    Zonkers David!

    You got someone’s attention. I personally hope it’s not all corporate PR spin and fell of deaf ears.

    I hope someone back at Nestle product management accelerates internal discussions on ways to eliminate plastic from their packaging.

    hey Jane… hint… hint… friendly suggestion, send an email to an EVP, SVP, RVP, Senior Director, ETC, that can can do something about it. ;-)

  9. david says:

    “A company with a proactive spin department must know it’s guilty of something (even something like creating a lot of trash) and knows it’s cheaper to put more money into an effort like this than product packaging refinements.”

    Amen to that Michael, Amen to that. If they spent 50% of the money on sustainability rather than pr spinners, imagine what they could accomplish.

  10. laura says:

    Very well put David. This is crazy I dont care who from what big corporate company logs on here and starts trying convicing us otherwise.

    Nestle….you arent going to change us, try your techniques on someone else! I’ll take my Klean Kanteen and my well water any day and I am not going to spend $1.50 on something I can get for free…

  11. Danica says:

    Sounds to me like they are still trying to make nice for killing all of those babies.

    Nestle is, was and always will be a money hungry corporation that in no way cares for people or the environment. Period.

  12. CdnChick says:

    Maybe Nestle should talk to Biota, who has been able to successfully create 100% compostable water bottles not from fossil fuels (gasp!) but from corn:
    http://www.biotaspringwater.com/?q=about/company

  13. Michael says:

    “Maybe Nestle should talk to Biota”

    Nice! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Maybe Nestle could also try selling reusable bottles (SIGG, Klean Kanteen, etc) with a large jug of water made from that biodegradable plastic. Fill up at home and take the little reusable bottle with you.

    But I’m also with David on the whole bottled is a bad idea all the way around, environmentally, financially, etc. Filters can do wonders for cleaning up water and making it on par with the expensive bottled stuff. With a tiny bit of pre-planning and a refillable bottle or two there is really no need to buy prepackaged water.

    Too bad for us (and lucky for companies like Nestle) that the masses value convenience over living in a trashed world. It’s also too bad so many large corporations green wash because it makes short-term business sense than altering their product and packaging.

    ——–

    P.S.

    Jane,

    I hope you can glean some good out of dialogs like this and send some suggestions back to your product folks to challenge your R&D and product designers with producing some truly sustainable products.

    It’s also really interesting to me that you noticed David’s post and replied so quickly. Nestle must have an active little crew or some nifty software for monitoring online activity and keyword usage. You also seem to have some well written prepared statements. To me this looks like some very proactive spin doctoring. Very telling too. I wonder if your investors will notice subtleties like this? ;-)

    Get it? A company with a proactive spin department must know it’s guilty of something (even something like creating a lot of trash) and knows it’s cheaper to put more money into an effort like this than product packaging refinements.

  14. Michael says:

    “Amen to that Michael, Amen to that. If they spent 50% of the money on sustainability rather than pr spinners, imagine what they could accomplish.”

    Yes I’m afraid the sad truth is that business decisions usually boil down to profitability and short-term wins.

    If business folks can be shown the money they will move to it. To begin repairing the damage that’s being done we must show them how green makes financial sense.

    It’s a sad truth that few hard-core corporate business folks would put anything above profitability on their list of priorities. To them it defies reason.

    The saddest true is that the best of the best in business are just getting bigger… meaning that the trend is moving toward making more money and less attention to anything that doesn’t make money.

    Green must make Greenbacks to be sustainable. Sad, but true. IMHO

  15. Kriss says:

    While I personally do not buy bottle water on a normal basis and I am the last person to stick up for companies, bottled water has use. There has been times when I was on the road and in desperate need of something to drink and being able to quickly stop at a mini-mart and grab a bottle of water saves me from killing over.

    I recycle any and everything, though I know the average person does not. We would have less of a plastic issue if people would have.

    Anyway unless they put drinking fountains everywhere so I can fill up my reusable bottle, bottled water still has somewhat of a place.

    It would help if people would think beyond themselves and convenience and recycle and not buy bottled water to drink on a daily basis.

  16. alice says:

    Least expensive bottled water I’ve found here is 79 cents a gallon for generic grocery store brand… I now get spa mineral water from the spouts at Carlsbad Spa for 50 cents a gallon… and, yes I do believe in avoiding tap water – the water district just about a year ago began adding fluoride to the water supply – BIG no-no. Even though it was originally thought to be a good idea to prevent tooth decay – as a topical rinse – it is now widely known that ingestion of fluoride has many dangerous health consequences… our bodies are mostly made of water – please be vigilant about the water you drink and the water you shower and bathe in!

  17. david says:

    Deborah – give Leslie at http://www.watercheck.biz/ hollar. He might be able to help you find something that would work for you.

  18. Deborah says:

    I worry about the fluoride and prescription medications found in tap water. I would never purchase single bottles of water – but we do get the 5 gal. bottles delivered and then we fill up our Sigg bottles. Can you recommend a good RO water filtration system? We had an under the counter one once but when we tested the water before and after, all it really changed was chlorine by a small amount!

  19. david says:

    Because clean water comes out of your tap for almost no cost – no plastic bottle needed. Last time I checked, soda does not come out of my kitchen tap, and neither does ice cream.
    :)

  20. John says:

    I don’t buy bottled water for the reasons that you stated. It doesn’t make sense to me to buy bottled water, but why stop with bottled water? Why is the environmental push only against bottled water.

    Facts: It takes 1.1 gallons of water to bottle 1 gallon of water (not 7 times, that’s beer). Soda take 3 – 5 gallons of water to bottle and Beer is upwards of 7 gallons for a gallon of beer.

    Additionally, there are 26 grams of plastic in a 20 oz bottle of soda. There are 9 grams of plastic in a bottle of water.

    I agree that bottled water is not green, but neither are any packaged beverages. Wouldn’t it be better (and healthier) if everyone stopped buying soda and drank bottled water? Ideally, it would be even better if everyone used reusable bottles filled with tap water.

    In the end, I am on board with attacking manufacturers for not being green. But I see things like the mayor of San Fransisco (Newsom) banning 5 gallon water bottles, but not touching soda vending machines. I am amazed at the hypocrisy behind the green revolution.

    Finally, I am willing to bet that there is much less waste in a bottle of water than there is in the pint of ice cream that you purchased.