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Sustainability: Bottled Water Gets a Bad Rap

This just in: the bottled water industry is actually good for the environment. That’s what Kim Jeffrey, chief executive of Nestle Waters, claims in a recent Q&A for the New York Times.

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Not only do bottled water companies work hard to conserve the environment around the springs where they get their water, they also moderate greenhouse gas emissions from trucks by building plants close to the water source. Nestle is also phasing in a new bottle that uses 15 percent less plastic. Sure the industry is behind on recycling, but who isn’t?

Somehow I’m not buying it. Clearly using tap water is better for the environment than bottled water. Jeffrey’s other points, however, get at the real issue: people aren’t buying bottled water in lieu of drinking tap water. They choose Poland Springs and Fiji water over Coke or Gatorade or Snapple. For the most part people are aware of the environmental issues with the industry, but that’s not their main concern. They just want something to drink that isn’t full of sugar.

Although growth in the industry has slowed, that doesn’t mean people are buying less bottled water. They just aren’t buying more. That seems unlikely to change anytime soon. It’s going to take a lot more than global warming to convince people to just drink tap water.

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Charles Fishman also talked to Kim Jeffrey for his article Message in Bottle, an in depth look at the bottled water industry.

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