As I opened my locker, there was a flurry of sound as eight water bottles fell out. In my bag, there were another three.
Suddenly the calculations began ... $1 at school for a water bottle every day at lunch, coupled with bottles I bring from home. This was pretty good brain work for me during mid-morning.
As I began examining the cost and waste of plastic water bottles, the results startled me. As part of our natural environment, air is free. Furthermore, in times past, water was considered free.
Now we buy 24-packs of bottled water or purchase bottles of water from vending machines. When and why did we start paying for water that we used to get free from fresh water streams?
In 1898, a French doctor, Louis Perrier, bought a spring in Southern France called Les Bouillens. There he bottled the water for consumption, a harmless novelty at the time. With increased revenue flowing into large corporations processing bottled water, more money in turn went into advertisements which would eventually change the way bottled water was perceived by the public.
Bottled water advertisements have seeped their way into the human subconsciousness, creating a sense of the water bottles’ vital role in our lives. Elizabeth Royce, author of “Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It,” notes an alarming fact about the current bottled water industry: “Bottled water from companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola come from municipal sources — their cost is so high because they spend so much money on advertisements. In 2005, the bottled water industry spent $158 million on advertising water. We’re falling for it; in 2007 Americans collectively drank 50 billion single-serve bottles of water.”
Why are Americans buying a product they can get for free in their homes? Every time we purchase a water bottle, we are in a sense throwing away money when we can be drinking the same water for free. Why would we throw away money?
The solution is clear: How hard would it be for us to refill a reusable bottle? American could save hundreds of dollars a year by simply moving away from bottled water.
Sadly, bottled water companies are changing the course of environmental history in such a disturbing manner. The fact that the world may soon run out of fresh water poses a real danger for all living things and comes down to us making the simple and lazy decision to purchase water bottles.
Eventually, organizations such as Take Back the Tap and Food and Water Watch hope to see the bottled water market diminish by informing consumers with a new type of counter-advertising.
We as Americans need to look beyond our obsession with the frivolous bottled water and see what a difference we can make in the environment, economy and our own personal lives. If we have that extra money to spend, let’s instead feed the world’s population that starves each day.
As an added bonus, my locker is a lot neater.