I know we're a nation of inveterate consumers, but who would buy pollution in a bottle?
Well, millions of Americans do, to the tune of $11 billion worth a year. That's the size of the bottled water industry in our country, dominated by such giants as Nestlé and Coca-Cola. But wait, shriek industry PR flacks, our product is pure goodness, not pollution, what are you talking about?!
Start with the little-reported fact that bottled water can contain a toxic mix of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Also, many tests of bottled water are done by the corporations themselves, rather than by independent, certified labs, and even when contaminants are found, the marketers do not have to tell consumers or public officials about them. Chances are that your city's tap water, which is inspected several times daily, is at least as pure and often more so than the pricey stuff in bottles.
Speaking of bottles, both the production and disposal of billions of tons of these throwaways is a pollution nightmare. The Environmental Working Group, for example, has revealed an area of the Pacific Ocean that amounts to a massive plastic water bottle dump that is twice the size of Texas! You can't throw water bottles away — because there is no "away."
Then there's the absurdly huge carbon footprint created by hauling bottled water back and forth across our country, not to mention across oceans, bringing water all the way from France or Fiji. If you need a textbook example of energy absurdity, try this: New York water is trucked to California, and California water is trucked to New York.
The good news is us: consumers! Individuals, companies, restaurants, cities, states and other entities are chucking the bottle, ending their silly addiction to a totally unnecessary source of pollution and waste. To join the effort, go to takebackthetap.org.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.