Message in a Bottle: Charles Fishman on Bottled Water


Notwithstanding Jeremy's post, TreeHugger usually doesn't like bottled water no matter how is is wrapped. (see it all in How to Green Your Water.) Now Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect, looks at bottled water in the July issue of Fast Company. There is little here that has not been on TreeHugger before, but he is such a good writer and puts it all together so coherently.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it's just a bottle of water--modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don't need--when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation--it's worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is.


Fishman covers all of the issues: the fuel used for transport, the markups, the marketing, the hype. And, the convenience and the incredible wealth of the Western world that can support such a frivolity.

Bottled water is not a sin. But it is a choice.

Packing bottled water in lunch boxes, grabbing a half-liter from the fridge as we dash out the door, piling up half-finished bottles in the car cup holders--that happens because of a fundamental thoughtlessness. It's only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can't be bothered. And in a world in which 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, that conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don't need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier.

Must reading from a great writer at ::Fast Company

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