Drinking bottled water Take a swig of this.

I drink bottled water because I like the convenience and because I like the taste. I LIKE … and every bottle I choose demonstrates what I value most. I value myself.

Drinking bottled water is not a sin, and this post isn’t about guilt, but they are both about perspective. And so I bring you to my perspective for making bottled water a whipping boy.

Bottled water is the embodiment of self-indulgence.

In 2007, the summer issue of Fast Company,  an innovative, subtly edgy and relevant magazine that pulls off personal and substantive at the same time, contained an interesting article about bottled water,  “Message in a Bottle.” Or as the magazine cover successfully sensationalized it, “Special Report: Bottled Water, $15 Billion Down the Drain.”

The $15 billion represents the amount of money Americans spent on bottled water last year, which is why I’m writing this post.

“We’ve come to pay good money — two or three or four times the cost of gasoline — for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.”

What does that mean?

It means that our society has reached the level of affluence where we’re willing to pay for something that we can get for free, even when “one in six people in this world has no dependable, safe drinking water.”

When we buy a bottle of water, we’re buying convenience and the “artful story the water companies tell us about the water.”

“We buy bottled water because we think it’s healthy. Which it is, of course . . . But bottled water isn’t healthier, or safer, than tap water. Indeed, while the United States is the single biggest consumer in the world’s $50 billion bottled-water market, it is the only one of the top four – -the others are Brazil, China, and Mexico — that has universally reliable tap water. Tap water in this country, with rare exceptions, is impressively safe. It is monitored constantly, and the test results made public.”

And the money we spend for this healthy convenience may seem like nothing, but consider that

“In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesn’t require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.”

But let’s talk about taste.

Well, it’s highly subjective. And even though I find Aquafina refreshing and think it tastes crisp and clean, while every other brand tastes flat and stale, I’d probably fail a blind taste test between waters at equal temperatures and presented in identical glasses. Most people do.

But forget about that, let’s talk about the environmental footprint that each water bottler leaves behind when bringing us the pure, clean and healthy alternative to our tap. It’s a significant footprint. It’s Sasquatch big …

Coke and Pepsi bottle their branded water at dozens of plants across the country to save on shipping costs — an eco-friendly idea. But then they place

“the local water through an energy-intensive reverse-osmosis filtration process more potent than that used to turn seawater into drinking water. The water they are purifying is ready to drink — they are recleaning perfectly clean tap water.”

Why?

Oh yeah! I drink bottled water because I like the convenience and because I like the taste. I LIKE … and every bottle I choose demonstrates what I value most. I value myself. I’m self-indulgent.

Drinking bottled water is not a sin, and this post isn’t about guilt, but they are both about perspective.

Whole Foods CEO and co-founder John Mackey said,

“You can compare bottled water to tap water and reach one set of conclusions, but if you compare it with other packaged beverages, you reach another set of conclusions . . . It’s unfair to say bottled water is causing extra plastic in landfills, and it’s using energy transporting it. There’s a substitution effect — it’s substituting for juices and Coke and Pepsi.”

And he’s right. We drink “almost twice the amount of soda as water — which is, in fact, 90 percent water and also in containers made to be discarded. If bottled water raises environmental and social issues, don’t soft drinks raise all those issues, plus obesity concerns?”

Of course the answer is yes. And so I bring you back to my point: Drinking bottled water is the embodiment of self-indulgence.

“In Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water. Which means it is easier for the typical American in Beverly Hills or Baltimore to get a drink of safe, pure, refreshing Fiji water than it is for most people in Fiji.”

Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that, even if you’re like me, self-indulgent, and most likely won’t change your behavior? Can’t we use that money for good and be no worse off ourselves?

World Water Day 2009 is Sunday, March 22. Think about it.


All quotes come directly from the article.

  • 32 Comments
  • Print This Post Print This Post
  • Add a Comment

32 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Amy
    Mar 20, 2009
    at 4:47 am

    Wow, this certainly gave me a lot to think about. I try not to buy bottled water if at all possible, simply because a) I’m a student so thus I am cheap, and b) like you say, my tap water is perfectly fine. I have, on the other hand, vowed never to drink flavoured water. It just doesn’t feeel right to me that I have the luxury of being able to buy lemon-flavoured water while millions of others are drinking dirt water.

    (For those of you who drink flavoured water, I am not condemning you at all – it’s just I personal thing that I feel I have to do)

  2. Mar 20, 2009
    at 5:53 am

    Amen to that insight! My husband and I were just talking about this today on our way to work. Not regarding bottled water per say, but just everything in general that American’s have the privilege of over indulging in. We, myself included, are way out of control. We have our priorities out of whack, because we are “brainwashed” to believe that the things we do are okay if we can afford to do them (and that’s right where the world wants us to be). Maybe because we, as Americans, have been readily blessed with such privileges… but, I wonder if such blessings are from God or more so self obtained? God’s “motto” is, “every man has need”… but, our “motto” (or so it seems), has become more like, “every man for himself”. Perhaps not all Americans have completely fallen to this way of thinking, but I believe most have in one respect or another. Thank you.

  3. Mar 20, 2009
    at 6:26 am

    good perspective…I actually prefer tap water, but if it’s not available I drink bottled. I just find it really hard to pay over $1 for water….but I guess I find it hard to pay that much for any drink.

  4. Mar 20, 2009
    at 7:39 am

    I remember reading that article. It was really the first time I’d actually thought about the cost – the TRUE cost – of a bottle of water. It really shook me up … especially that part about it being easier for US to get water from Fiji than those who live in Fiji.

    Ugh. Our affluence blinds us.

  5. […] 22 is World Water Day, and I read this post on the Compassion Blog today about bottled water.  I love the way that Chris handled the post.  His basic statement is […]

  6. Mar 20, 2009
    at 10:13 am

    We live out in the country and it actually is NOT safe to drink our well water. We have a lot of sulfur. When we first moved out here three years ago, we bought those gallon water jugs but shortly realized that if we attached a water filter to our tap, we would save $$ and have healthier drinking water.

    We are so blessed to have running water to our homes!

  7. Mar 20, 2009
    at 1:19 pm

    Under most circumstances (here in the good ol U. S. of A.), drinking bottled water IS a sin.

    Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

  8. Sara Benson
    Mar 20, 2009
    at 1:38 pm

    I totally agree. I cannot make myself buy bottled water. It just feels wrong. I carry my nalgene with me everywhere.

    Interesting note about tap water. In Colorado Springs we are first users of our water and I heard that the city was considering bottling our tap water and selling it as spring water.

  9. Mike Stephens
    Mar 20, 2009
    at 1:40 pm

    I don’t have enough money to be throwing it around on bottled water anyways!!! ;) I gladly go to Whole Foods and make meals out of their free samples. I even tried Octopus one day. But bottled or not Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!!!” See you guys at the National Advocates Conference in a few months!!! I bet there will be bottled water!!! ;0

  10. Mar 20, 2009
    at 1:55 pm

    Well said, Chris.

  11. Mar 20, 2009
    at 2:11 pm

    Where I live, tap water is so delicious I can’t imagine why someone would want anything else, but visiting relatives in Phoenix convinced me that not everyone’s water tastes so good! Still, I’m not sure why anyone living in the US needs to buy water in those little plastic bottles.

  12. Christi
    Mar 20, 2009
    at 2:30 pm

    I grew up where the tap water was wonderful…..and if I could, I’d take my reusable bottles and bottle my own!
    While I have ethically turned to a water filter on my tap – I recognize my hypocrisy(well, lack of consistency) by drinking pop as well.

    And – if I am on a plane, or somewhere that it’s bottled water or bottled sugar water – I’m going to choose the bottled water.

    But thank you for opening my eyes even more to my impact on our world.

  13. Mar 20, 2009
    at 3:50 pm

    I received the following e-mail from Fiji Water.

    Hi -

    I’m contacting you on behalf of FIJI Water and I wanted to make sure you had the correct facts about our product and about local access to drinking water.

    The claim that “half the people in Fiji don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water” is incorrect.

    Reliable access to clean, safe drinking water is common throughout much of Fiji, but there are still some remote villages where infrastructure is lacking. The company is currently funding projects through the FIJI Water Foundation to ensure that these communities are provided with a safe water supply. FIJI Water has taken direct responsibility for providing water access to the villages that surround our source in the Yaqara Valley. In addition, we’ve partnered with the Rotary Club to fund the Pacific Water for Life Trust, which will provide the infrastructure, expertise and skills necessary to deliver safe, clean and sustainable water to more than 100 additional communities, schools, health centers and nursing stations throughout Fiji over the next two years.

    Our water is drawn from an underground aquifer that is realistically not accessible by the public. The idea that exporting water reduces access to this resource is not true; in fact, our export revenue is paying for the expansion of water access at a pace that Fiji’s government has never achieved. If we didn’t bottle the water the underground flow would simply run into the ocean and fewer people in Fiji would benefit from access to clean, safe water.

    Thank you very much for your time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. You can also visit fijigreen.com for more information on our sustainable growth initiative.

    My reference to Fiji Water was via a direct quote from the article I wrote about. I did not interpret, research or verify the the claim the magazine made.

  14. Mar 21, 2009
    at 1:17 pm

    According to the US Government (www.epa.gov) on average, tap water costs are slightly more than $2 per 1,000 gallons. That’s quite a bargain considering FIJI will sell you approximately 3 gallons of water (delivered to your home no less) for $37.50.

    To put it another way, your town’s water company will sell you 5 gallons of water for 1 penny. FIJI will sell you the same amount of water for about $56 bucks (home delivery included!!!)

    Is FUJI doing wonderful things for the poor folks who live in their country? Maybe–for the sake of this discussion I’ll agree that they are, but with the ridiculous profit they are making they could ensure that every citizen of that country had potable water to drink!

    Folks, for us, it’s a no brainer. Unless your water is contaminated, you have no excuse not to drink what comes out of your tap.

    http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/sdwa/30th/factsheets/pdfs/fs_30ann_dwsrf_web.pdf

    http://www.shopfijiwater.com/500ml–250024.html

  15. Mike Stephens
    Mar 22, 2009
    at 1:08 pm

    Yet again I agree. I agree that it is important to “FILTER” what we do (what a great punn) hahaha!!! I think I will put it into SCUBA diving terms. Bottled water is a reality and it most likely will still be around 20 years from now, however that doesn’t mean I have to drink it. So in SCUBA terms if there is a cone shell or Blue Ringed Octopus or seasnake it doesn’t mean I need to go grab it and get poisoned. I can admire them from a safe distance. In terms of bottled water I do not have the money anyways to buy it myself!!! I am too selfish to buy bottled water for myself!!! I want to go to the Philippines and visit the 3 boys I Sponsor and dunk a basketball with 2 hands for Angelo take a picture and hopefully a video and show you guys when I get back!!! I think the key is not self-indulgence but to self-indulge in the things of God like “Releasing Children from Poverty in JESUS’ name!!!” In order to self-indulge in that I can easily skip the bottled water buying craze. Is there a way for me to put my picture next to the little square by my name??? I have a few pictures saved from Nicaragua on my computer. Is possible for me to put one of them on that little square by my name???

  16. Mar 23, 2009
    at 5:29 pm

    what keep ringing in my ear is

    that bottled water could be given to a child in somalia africa

    we can get water for free yet in my kitchen there are 3 packages filled with 12 water bottles each

    all i really need to do is take water from my sink in a re-usable water bottle that way i can save the water and the resources for those who really need it

  17. Mar 23, 2009
    at 8:48 pm

    If my understanding is correct, then bottled water is less regulated than tab water. It’s probably safer to drink tab water than the bottled water.

    It’s kind of interesting that one of the large bottled water companies named their product EVIAN, which is backwards for Naive.

    I’ve yet to understand the excitement about the bottled water. It’s definitely a Political Correct drink. It seems to be good for one’s image to drink this in public.

    I personally bought a filter about 12 years ago and now the water is filtered. I spend about 5 years on a filter, since I’m single and the only other consumer in the house for the water is my little dog, Corgi. So, it’s extremely cheap. Although after having gotten involved with Compassion and having seen the need around the world, I can’t imagine spending the money on an expensive waterfilter, like I did 12 years ago.

    So, you can save a lot of money, buying even a cheap waterfilter system, and then keep refilling the bottle for the bottled water. It’s probably safer than the bottled water and it will save a lot of money, maybe even enough to sponsor an additional child. (By the way, I’m looking for a sponsor for a little girl, named Teresa in Bolivia. She is a really nice girl of 11 years old)

    Kees

  18. Heather
    Mar 24, 2009
    at 4:35 pm

    Drinking bottled water is just a really selfish idea. I have to admit that yes I have bought bottled water but only when really really neccessary. I don’t buy it just because I don’t want to drink tap water. If anyone is having water shipped to them or buying bottled water everyday,they are totally crazy.
    One of the best water filters out there is only $250 dollars and you only have to buy one filter a year which costs around $50.00 or so.
    On a bit brighter note Starbucks sells ETHOS bottled water. The makers of ETHOS send a certain percentage of their profits from the bottled water to Ethiopia to build wells and clean water systems. If I really have to buy bottled water and Starbucks is nearby I’ll go buy a bottle of Ethos for $1.99 and try not to feel too horrid for doing it.

  19. Mark
    Apr 2, 2009
    at 10:33 pm

    @Compassiondave – Reading your comment will most likely make me stop drinking bottled water, sodas, etc.

  20. Apr 3, 2009
    at 9:44 am

    lol–repent not (merely) from sin, but towards Jesus!

  21. Megan
    Apr 3, 2009
    at 12:23 pm

    “Bottled water is the embodiment of self-indulgence”

    … and what part of self-indulgence is not sin?

  22. Apr 6, 2009
    at 5:39 pm

    I tend to reserve purchasing bottled water for when I am on vacation and really don’t know the purity of the local water. If possible I buy it by the gallon (distilled or filtered) but you do have to watch that it’s not just bottled “water from a municipal source.” At home I have an under-the-sink filter and I refill my rubbermaid bottle every morning. Our midwestern tap water isn’t always the best and usually tastes wonky. I find that in order to drink enough water for staying healthy (and to keep away from soda), the reverse osmosis filter does the trick. I have seen too many demonstrations of testing for impurities in midwestern tap water (think farm run-off) to trust that it is clean enough to drink, even though it is ok for washing clothes and bodies. I think the filter is a nice compromise and pays for itself rather quickly in terms of what bottled water would cost(initial investment about $200, $90 to replace the filters once a year). We really are blessed to have so many water options. I am working on being more grateful when I enjoy my daily water.

  23. May 6, 2009
    at 7:11 am

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader..

  24. Esme
    May 10, 2009
    at 4:51 pm

    Bottled water is safer than tap water in Las Vegas and Reno NV. Whenever I drink tap water in either place I throw up get diarrhea. So I guess I’ll continue to “indulge” in bottled water in order to stay hydrated. The water also tastes gross. so even if I didn’t get physically sick I probably would continue to indulge.

  25. Esme
    May 10, 2009
    at 4:53 pm

    Oh and I forgot to add….Whenever I go into the gas station to buy something to drink I always thought that a bottle of water was better for the environment than a bottle of soda or an energy drink.

  26. Heather
    May 11, 2009
    at 2:10 pm

    Originally Posted By EsmeBottled water is safer than tap water in Las Vegas and Reno NV. Whenever I drink tap water in either place I throw up get diarrhea. So I guess I’ll continue to “indulge” in bottled water in order to stay hydrated. The water also tastes gross. so even if I didn’t get physically sick I probably would continue to indulge.

    Esme-this is why you should buy a really expensive or at least extremely good filter for your water so you won’t have to waste money on bottled water. The most expensive filter out there is probably 300 dollars and a filter once a year is 50 but buying alot of bottled water is way more expensive than that.

  27. Mike Stephens
    May 26, 2009
    at 4:22 pm

    Well just so you are not confused I drink bottled water a ton!!! There is a health food store and you can get 1 gallon of water for 25 cents so I drink that all the time.

  28. Mike Stephens
    May 26, 2009
    at 4:24 pm

    @Esme – At the end of the day it is about health. Organic almonds cost about twice as much per lb if not a little more than non-organic almonds. I believe you get what you pay for.

  29. Patrick
    Aug 27, 2009
    at 10:24 am

    I believe that we are free in Christ and the Lord will not be angry if we buy a bottled water every now and again. But I hate all that wasted plastic so I bought a water filter. While our local water is drinkable, it has a chemical flavor that is disagreeable and I know that all that chlorine and sediment ain’t good for my health.

  30. dave
    Nov 17, 2009
    at 5:58 am

    well i work and have at my house well water and at my house it is good but at work i work for a grower of flowers and the water there is not good i buy bottled water there to drink and it is good i also see that it is a billion dollar business that makes jobs for all sorts of industries like plastic and filtration shipping and so on so i see it as a need for are economics at this point that this industries provides a large number of jobs and they are hard to find now a days so we need to keep drinking it and being overindulgent it keeps food on tables and it is a market that is not struggling at this time.

  31. The Rev
    Jan 2, 2011
    at 3:24 pm

    Anyone that drinks bottled water isn’t just stupid – you are selling out your countrymen to overseas companies like Nestle. You are selling out your planet to the plastic industry. In many cases bottled water brands like Aquafina and Dasani, are just municipal tap water that is sold back to you. Anyone that drinks store bought water is selling themselves and us down the river. Add the fact that we use enough crude oil in the making of plastic bottles to power 100,000 cars and that the process we use to make these bottles are cancerous to the communities around the refineries and you should be confident that Jesus would not approve at all.

© 2008-2014 Compassion International. All Rights Reserved.
ECFA Charity Navigator BBB