Greener By Design 2009: Plastic Water Bottles at Green Conferences. Sigh.


Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch

A driving concept here at Greener by Design is a notion put forward by William McDonough: Doing less bad is not the same as doing good. Period. So, do these "special" plastic water bottles by Nestle, piled up in the refreshment section of the conference, contradict that point? The water bottles provided at the conference are by Nestle. They are made of 25% recycled materials. They boast the GreenOps label as well as Cradle to Cradle certification. The bottles dedicate their label to recycling. The entire thing is covered in language that tells the consumer DON'T THROW ME AWAY!!! Or any other plastic bottle for that matter. Recycle!! That is definitely a good thing...but it's on a bad thing. In other words, it's doing less bad.

So, wait...say what? I thought McDonough said doing less bad is not the same as doing good. And we're all supposed to persevere to do 100% good. Hummmm. Contradiction.

Even in the program, Greener By Design states:

Greener By Design is proud to provide Nestle Water North America's newest bottled water, re-source. The vision for a more effective resuse and recycling of plastic led to an unusual collaboration among Whole Foods Market, Nestle Waters North America, Waste Management and McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). The result is re-source natural spring water, the first premium national bottled spring water brand to use 25% recycled plastic (rPET) in all of its bottles, while participating in an incentive-based, in-store recycling program in an effort to increase consumer recycling rates. Launched in April 2009 at Whole Foods Market locations, we are pleased to provide re-source for the Greener By Design conference. Please recycle your used water bottles at the GreenOps Recycling Center located in the Regency Foyer.

Does acting on good intentions equate to doing good? Does shouting to consumers that they should recycle their water bottles offset the fact that a company is putting out more plastic water bottles?

With any luck, more people are choosing the greener option to fill glasses with water from pitchers and water coolers like the one above, and not from the bottles. However, so far I've seen the pile of plastic bottles shrink; slowly, but still shrink. That is less bad. And that is not good.

More on Greener by Design:
Greener By Design 2009: Terracycle's Take on Trash and Sneak Peek at Next Year's Product (Video)
Greener By Design 2009: It's Not Just Consumers Driving Businesses to Change
Greener by Design 2009: What the Heck is GreenOps Recyclables Tracking?
Greener by Design 2009: Innovators Show Off New Twists on Old Products
Greener By Design 2009: HP and a Computer Box Meant to Last Forever
Greener by Design 2009: It Doesn't Matter If It's Sustainable If It Isn't Cool, and Other Insights
Greener By Design 2009 Will Explore Greener Products for Leaner Times
Greener by Design 2009: Putting Designers in the Center of Cradle-to-Cradle Thinking
Greener by Design 2009: Joel Makower and The New Normal
Greener By Design 2009: William McDonough and Designing with Intent

Tags: Bottled Water | Designers | ICFF/ New York Design Week | Recycling