, Video VaultThe Story Of Bottled Water

The Story Of Bottled Water

Many people tout the personal health benefits of clean eating – weight loss, improved energy levels, decreased instances of illness – but one small (yet huge) facet of clean eating involves the health of our environment. This concept is called “reducing your carbon footprint.”

What is your “carbon footprint?” It’s a clever way of describing the impact your daily activities have on your environment. If you drive an hour long commute, the amount of oil burned and emissions released from your car have an impact. The amount of energy your home uses also has an impact. Obviously (and unfortunately), some things we simply cannot compromise. If you have to drive that commute, you have to do what you have to do.

However.. you know what has an impact that also is easily reduced? Trash generated from food and drinks. If you are truly reducing the amount of processed food in your life, you should notice that there are less boxes and cans for you to have to throw away… especially if you’re not already recycling. Cutting back on the processed food not only benefits your health, but it reduces the amount of trash you generate which is sooooo much better for the environment.

What am I getting at, here? Simple. The one most wasteful, most useless, most pointless source of trash in the United States… is bottled water.

I can hear you now…


[insert excuse]..”

…no. Watch the video. At work? The transcript is pasted below for your reading enjoyment.

One of the problems with trying to use less stuff is that sometimes we feel like we really need it. What if you live in a city like, say, Cleveland and you want a glass of water? Are you going to take your chances and get it from the city tap? Or should you reach for a bottle of water that comes from the pristine rainforests of… Fiji?

Well, Fiji brand water thought the answer to this question was obvious. So they built a whole ad campaign around it. It turned out to be one of the dumbest moves in advertising history.

See the city of Cleveland didn’t like being the butt of Fiji’s joke so they did some tests and guess what? These tests showed a glass of Fiji water is lower quality, it loses taste tests against Cleveland tap and costs thousands of times more.

This story is typical of what happens when you test bottled water against tap water.

Is it cleaner? Sometimes, sometimes not: in many ways, bottled water is less regulated than tap.

Is it tastier? In taste tests across the country, people consistently choose tap over bottled water.
These bottled water companies say they’re just meeting consumer demand – But who would demand a less sustainable, less tasty, way more expensive product, especially one you can get almost free in your kitchen? Bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water. Can you imagine paying 2000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?

Yet people in the U.S. buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week. That’s enough to circle the globe more than times. How did this come to be? Well it all goes back to how our materials economy works and one of its key drivers which is known as manufactured demand.

If companies want to keep growing, they have to keep selling more and more stuff. In the 1970s giant soft drink companies got worried as their growth projections started to level off. There’s only so much soda a person can drink. Plus it wouldn’t be long before people began realizing that soda is not that healthy and turned back to – gasp – drinking tap water.

Well, the companies found their next big idea in a silly designer product that most people laughed at as a passing yuppie fad. Water is free, people said back then, what will they sell us next, air?

So how do you get people to buy this fringe product? Simple: You manufacture demand. How do you do that? Well, imagine you’re in charge of a bottled water company.

Since people aren’t lining up to trade their hard earned money for your unnecessary product, you make them feel scared and insecure if they don’t have it. And that’s exactly what the bottled water industry did. One of their first marketing tactics was to scare people about tap water, with ads like Fiji’s Cleveland campaign.

“When we’re done,” one top water exec said, “tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes.”
Next, you hide the reality of your product behind images of pure fantasy. Have you ever noticed how bottled water tries to seduce us with pictures of mountains streams and pristine nature? But guess where a third of all bottled water in the U.S. actually comes from? The tap! Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani are two of the many brands that are really filtered tap water.

But the pristine nature lie goes much deeper. In a recent full page ad, Nestlé said: “bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world.” What?! They’re trashing the environment all along the product’s life cycle. Exactly how is that environmentally responsible?

The problems start here with extraction and production where oil is used to make water bottles. Each year, making the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. takes enough oil and energy to fuel a million cars.
All that energy spent to make the bottle even more to ship it around the planet and then we drink it in about 2 minutes? That brings us to the big problem at the other end of the life cycle – disposal.
What happens to all these bottles when we’re done? Eighty percent end up in landfills, where they will sit for thousands of years, or in incinerators, where they are burned, releasing toxic pollution. The rest gets collected for recycling.

I was curious about where the plastic bottles that I put in recycling bins go. I found out that shiploads were being sent to India. So, I went there. I’ll never forget riding over a hill outside Madras where I came face to face with a mountain of plastic bottles from California. Real recycling would turn these bottles back into bottles. But that wasn’t what was happening here. Instead these bottles were slated to be downcycled, which means turning them into lower quality products that would just be chucked later. The parts that couldn’t be downcycled were thrown away there; shipped all the way to India just to be dumped in someone else’s backyard.

If bottled water companies want to use mountains on their labels, it’d be more accurate to show one of those mountains of plastic waste.

Scaring us, seducing us, and misleading us – these strategies are all core parts of manufacturing demand.
Once they’ve manufactured all this demand, creating a new multibillion dollar market, they defend it by beating out the competition. But in this case, the competition is our basic human right to clean, safe drinking water.

Pepsi’s Vice Chairman publicly said “the biggest enemy is tap water!” They want us to think it’s dirty and bottled water is the best alternative.

In many places, public water is polluted thanks to polluting industries like the plastic bottle industry! And these bottled water guys are all too happy to offer their expensive solution which keeps us hooked on their product.

It’s time we took back the tap.

That starts with making a personal commitment to not buy or drink bottled water unless the water in your community is truly unhealthy. Yes, it takes a bit of foresight to grab a reusable bottle on the way out, but I think we can handle it.

Then take the next step — join a campaign that’s working for real solutions. Like demanding investment in clean tap water for all. In the US, tap water is underfunded by $24 billion partly because people believe drinking water only comes from a bottle! Around the world, a billion people don’t have access to clean water right now. Yet cities all over are spending millions of dollars to deal with all the plastic bottles we throw out. What if we spent that money improving our water systems or better yet, preventing pollution to begin with?

There are many more things we can do to solve this problem. Lobby your city officials to bring back drinking fountains. Work to ban the purchase of bottled water by your school, organization or entire city.
This is a huge opportunity for millions of people to wake up and protect our wallets, our health and the planet. The good news is: it’s already started.

Bottled water sales have begun to drop while business is booming for safe refillable water bottles. Yay!
Restaurants are proudly serving “tap” and people are choosing to pocket the hundred or thousands of dollars they would otherwise be wasting on bottled water. Carrying bottled water is on its way to being as cool as smoking while pregnant. We know better now.

The bottled water industry is getting worried because the jig is up. We’re not buying into their manufactured demand anymore. We’ll choose our own demands, thank you very much, and we’re demanding clean safe water for all. [source – The Story of Bottled Water (Annotated/Footnoted Script)]

You may not believe 100% of what this video and transcript present but, if nothing else, it should make you think. As we focus this week on increasing our water intake, think about it – are you using bottled water to get by? Are you wasting your money (and, at the same time, complaining about the cost of living healthily?) Well, don’t. This is one expense that you could stand to avoid. If you’re in an area that really and truly has horrible water (which, believe it or not, isn’t as common as you’d think), buy the giant gallon jugs and recycle them. Research the brand you’re buying, and make sure that they’re not serving you the same tap water you think you’re escaping.. but those little bottles are wasteful and unnecessary.. seriously.

Buy yourself an awesome and attractive water container so you can hydrate for less, and keep it on hand. Keep it full! Keep drinking it! And most importantly… keep refilling it! I promise that both your body and your Earth will thank you for it!

(Are you a subscriber? You’ll definitely want to come watch the video!)

By | 2017-06-10T11:22:53+00:00 October 23rd, 2014|Clean Eating Boot Camp, Video Vault|69 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Crystal August 24, 2010 at 7:58 AM - Reply

    😐 I’m one of those terrible people who doesn’t care about the environment. I can try, though.

    • Erika August 24, 2010 at 8:01 AM - Reply

      Not terrible… just stubborn. LOLOL

      If anything, just reducing those things – like this – can make a big difference. Every little bit helps. 🙂

  2. DRSIMS August 24, 2010 at 8:05 AM - Reply

    How can you be pro-health and anti-bottled water?! You post stories against people drinking soda but then also tell them they shoudln’t drink bottled water. Bottled water has one of the lowest carbon foot prints of any bottled beverage (soda, juice, milk,wine, beer, etc.)In many cases and places the tap water is not drinkable. The majority of bottled water companies are not anti-tap water. The facts this lady spews are only half-truths. I think drinking water period is important…but having a reliable, clean and healthy beverage is a definite plus..not a minus

    • Erika August 24, 2010 at 8:27 AM - Reply

      “How can I be pro-health and anti-bottled water?” Easy.

      BOTTLED water is grossly unnecessary. GROSSLY. And until you can prove to me that “in many cases the tap water is undrinkable” – using resources that AREN’T backchannel funded by the bottled water industry – I’m sticking by that. Sorry.

      Why would you compare drinking SODA to drinking bottled water? The two are thoroughly unrelated. If the entire point of clean eating is cutting out the middle man and getting as close to the source as possible… why would you think I’d be PRO-bottled water?

      The reality is that BOTTLED water is an unnecessary excess – an extreme form of consumerism* that, in MANY cases, is unnecessary – and REDUCING our use of it is ideal. I even say in the post:

      This is one expense that you could stand to avoid. If you’re in an area that really and truly has horrible water (which, believe it or not, isn’t as common as you’d think), buy the giant gallon jugs and recycle them. Research the brand you’re buying, and make sure that they’re not serving you the same tap water you think you’re escaping.. but those little bottles are wasteful and unnecessary.. seriously.

      So, really. C’mon. Let’s be realistic, here. LOLOL

      *consumerism: “Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts.”

      • EJ October 26, 2014 at 7:35 AM - Reply

        The author’s point is simply:
        – do not be hoodwinked by marketing of bottles water companies
        – educate yourself re the source and cleansing process of ALL water you drink because to do so will FACILITATE your personal health and the health of our environment
        – be smart…don’t waste $$ on the hype (did u read the article?)

  3. jen August 24, 2010 at 8:59 AM - Reply

    so what about water filter systems like britta (sp?) are they bad too?

  4. seanmom1 August 24, 2010 at 9:58 AM - Reply

    I’m struggling with this. in my endeavor to give up juice and soda i drink about 5 bottles of water a day.I’m going to purchase a water filter for home but the water at my job is horrible. I’m talking about it comes out the tap pure white. I dont know if this particular building is solely like that. but i try my best not to drink it. Maybe i can just filter some water at home and bring it to work. Great post.

    • Erika August 24, 2010 at 10:18 AM - Reply

      Pure white? Like paint? You may DEFINITELY want to do some research… or you may just want to get larger gallon containers and a refillable water container that you can keep on hand. They’re WAY cheaper than the smaller bottles, anyhow. I don’t know if filtration may be able to help with that.

    • Bannef July 28, 2011 at 9:33 PM - Reply

      Does the water clear up if left in a glass for a while? Then it is very likely harmless. This happens in my house all the time, but according to a couple of sources online that look legit (and my mommy, lol!) it is just air bubbles. http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/04water/2004/whitewater.htm

      However, if it tastes gross, that’s a pain and no fun. I can’t stand the taste of the water in some places (for some reason Florida always gets me!). Maybe one of those filters that are attached to a pitcher might help?

  5. Savannah August 24, 2010 at 10:24 AM - Reply

    Great post. I live in the Bay Area in Northern CA and we have pretty good tap water. When I moved to another within the Bay, who’s water I didn’t like as much, I bought a water filter. I definitely noticed the difference. I carry my reusable bottle with me everywhere. We have even begun to get rid of bottled water at my job. Replacing it with a counter top filtration system and “spa water” in our cafeteria. Again I think this is a great post and a good way to get people to start really thinking.

  6. Ladi Ohm August 24, 2010 at 11:15 AM - Reply

    This post really made me think about my current habits… I’m drinking out of a Deja Blue water bottle right now 🙁

    When I was in grad school in Austin, I never drank bottled water because the tap water was great… after moving back to Dallas, I got right back on the bottle, buying multiple cases at a time (the water here, not so tasty). I really should invest in a Brita filter.

  7. Eunice August 24, 2010 at 11:19 AM - Reply

    Great info, Erika! I cringe when I see those little 8 oz bottled waters. Why would you buy a hundred baby-sized bottles that you’re going to drink in 2 seconds? You’re basically paying for all that plastic that you’re going to throw away anyway. Sigh..

  8. Tammie August 24, 2010 at 12:11 PM - Reply

    Great video! Thanks for sharing.
    I’m a big fan of tap water but we had a boil water advisory some years back and we never stopped boiling water in kettles and storing them in glass pitchers. It’s a process that most people wouldn’t do but hey, I like baking from scratch and buying cheese in blocks and shredding them w/my food processor : )
    I refill my my stainless steel Contigo cup over and over from our water fountain at work and save lots of money.

  9. Nikita August 24, 2010 at 3:38 PM - Reply

    I started drinking bottled water (purchase it by the gallon/ purified or distilled) because of the fluoride that is added to tap. I know that they state it is minimal, but I really do not understand why it is added in the first place. I am going to get a Zerowater pitcher though and purchase many of the filters and that should stop the water bottle buying for me.

  10. Jubilance August 24, 2010 at 5:50 PM - Reply

    I’m generally a tap water person. I’ve had the same Brita pitcher for years & I just change the filters.

    Most ppl don’t know that the sources for most bottled water companies is the same source of their free tap water. Why would you pay for that?

    I also work in the filter & membrane industry, we make products that are used by both Coke & Pepsi for their bottled water & pop plants, as well as products that municipal plants use to filter water once its been treated. Learning about the industry has put me squarely on #teamtapwater.

    • Erika August 24, 2010 at 5:59 PM - Reply

      Jubi, please let ’em know what “municipal” means on the side of the water bottle. LOLOL

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