Greenwash: Eco-Friendly Bottled Water

February 29, 2012

Last week my friend Keith over at The Unsuitablog sent me a press release about eco-friendly bottled water. Yes, you read that right, I wrote eco-friendly bottled water. Those of you who have read my articles here over the years know that I am a staunch proponent of exposing companies trying to greenwash themselves and their products. From the World Wildlife Fund to SC Johnson to a conference dedicated to sustainability called Sustainable Brands, I do my best to uncover greenwash attempts by major corporations and NGOs. Every time I do I am surprised by just how audacious their claims are and I think they couldn’t get any more ridiculous. Then I receive a press release like the one Keith sent me and I am shocked once again.

This time, the release was from a PR company doing the greenwash for the Italian sparkling mineral water brand Ferrarelle. In it, they first asked if “in the quest to become a leaner, greener, less meaner consumer, have you abandoned bottled water? Do you feel guilty every time you twist the top of a bottle that has traveled quite the distance to hydrate you?” and then goes on to say “Cast those doubts aside with Ferrarelle, Italy’s No.1 naturally sparkling mineral water and possibly the most eco-friendly water you have had the pleasure of sipping.”

This company, which traps spring water, injects it with CO2, packages it in plastic bottles, and then ships it around the world, calls its product “possibly the most eco-friendly water” ever. Nope, sorry – there is absolutely nothing eco-friendly about your water. Period. And shame on you for even trying to greenwash bottled water.

A few facts about bottled water:

  • 88% of the used plastic bottles in this country are not recycled and take hundreds of years to even begin to break down. That’s 30 million plastic bottles a day thrown away (not recycled) in the US alone.
  • Production of the plastic (PET or polyethylene) bottles to meet our demand for bottled water takes the equivalent of about 17.6 million barrels of oil (not including transportation costs).
  • It can take nearly 7 times the amount of water in the bottle to actually make the bottle itself.

No company bottling water and selling it is green, eco-friendly, or good for the environment. They are just trying to greenwash bottled water to sell more of it. Stick to your filtered tap water and a reusable water bottle and avoid the bottled stuff like the plague.

Image from Big Stock Photo

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Comments (11)

  1. John says:

    What about the chlorine and chemicals that are added to tap water to ensure bacterial growth is minimized, the 5 micron filters on remove the smell not the actual chemical.

  2. Ryan says:

    I definitely agree with you that the company is green washing if it is not actively pursuing sustainable features or practices, but can’t you say the same generalizations that you made for every beverage product concerning the environment?I’m all about the environment, but how is it different, and why the focus on just bottled water and not beverages in general.
    With regard to using reusable bottles with tap water, I’m all for that too. My only thing is what if you are trying to avoid chemical fluoride that exists in 85% of our water supply? What if you want an alkaline water with natural minerals and electrolytes that is enter for you in health.
    Here is my last question: If someone came to you with a bottled water that had these health benefits, a zero carbon footprint, 100%rpet bottle, used the most sustainable water source in te world, and gave 650 liters of clean water to people in need for every bottle bought, would you still say don’t buy it because it’s bottled water, and that we should buy another beverage, like a soda, that has none of these benefits? A lot of people might, and I don’t understand that logic.
    Let me know what you think.

    • David says:

      Last time I checked, juice and soda don’t come out of my tap. That’s what sets them apart from “other” companies bottling liquids. As for fluoride, a well-made water filter will take anything like that out of your tap water. As for your question, I don’t think we should buy the water or the soda; it’s not an either/or question.

  3. Ryan says:

    “that’s what sets them apart from “other” companies bottling liquids”
    – the major component for soda is tap water. Buy your own soda maker to go with your filter. You are also making the assumption that tap water is the same as other water. It’s not, same as other beverages.

    My point is why the hell does everyone focus on bottled water when the problem is the entire beverage industry? Why arent you writing an article about beverages in general.

  4. Ryan says:

    I just noted you have an advertisement from welch’s. Ironic. But it’s juice? So that makes it ok, right?…..same environmental story as bottled water. Not more, not less. If you are an environmental website, c’mon.

    • David says:

      Its called contextual advertising. Again, feel free to start your own site or submit an article outlining your views on the topic. My opinion is what I wrote and will continue to write. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Ryan says:

    Why did you delete my comment that said your facts were wrong. Recycling rate is more than 34% in 2011 for example. Please update your references

  6. Aminah says:

    I support filtered tap water as much as the next green-minded person. Then I moved to San Angelo, TX. I bought a Brita filter water pitcher and noticed that the water tasted funny. Never experienced that taste in my life. I thought maybe I didn’t follow the directions right so I did another 2 rounds of getting the filter ready. Still the same horrible taste. I start researching, and mind you I’m breastfeeding so anything I eat or drink I’m extremely conscientious about. I finally find out that San Angelo not only has ridiculously high levels of fluoride and other crap but it also has high levels of chloride in the water. And all of that to try and “clean” the horribly dirty water flowing through our taps. Not everyone has the luxury of popping on a filter and calling it a day. And to eliminate fluoride from tap water you need an expensive reverse osmosis filter that not everyone has the money to afford. I will be consuming bottled water for my 5 month stint here and it would be nice to find green bottled water companies for those of us in this predicament or for those of us willing to recycle or do what we can to protect the environment.

    • David Quilty says:

      Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “green” bottled water company and never can be. Your best bet is to spend the money for a good filter, not just a cheap Brita one. I have a Zuvo one which works wonders, filtering the water 5 times including once with UV light. Check it out if you can.