I remember recently passing an ad on King Street in Toronto that made me stop; it depicted Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston sublimely holding a bottle of Smartwater—as if it would indeed make her smart. Not. The shame of it is that I’m told the actress is a humanitarian and devotes her time to worthy charities and causes. Promoting bottled water is its antithesis. Promoting bottled water is promoting corporate greed and environmental disrespect. Promoting bottled water puts Aniston in the same category as Trump with his elitist “Trump Ice”, served at the President’s hotels, restaurants and golf courses, like it was exotic champagne.
Promoting bottled water promotes an exorbitant, wasteful and environmentally unfriendly life-style. There is absolutely no need for a Canadian to rely on bottled water.
A March 22, 2017 article in the Globe and Mail discussed why Canadians—despite the fact that most of us have access to free-flowing tap water that’s clean, fresh and safe—still support a $2.5 billion annual sale of bottled water. Here are some of the reasons people DO or DO NOT use bottled water in Canada (a water-rich country):
- Because it’s a fashion statement: Aniston’s ads, and others like it, are obviously promoting the product as sexy, tantalizing, cool and “smart”. This is water, folks! Water is a necessity; it’s not perfume or shoes or a dress. It is something every person needs to live. To market something that should be a human right and that already comes out of your household tap, is reprehensible. It is also uncool. These ads demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility, wrongful representation, lack of compassion and a cavalier attitude for the necessity of this substance.
- Because it’s forbidden: The Globe and Mail report that Bundanoon in Australia was the first municipality to ban the sale of single-use bottled water (in 2009). Concord, Mass., followed in 2013. Campuses around the world, including the school that my son went to, have eliminated bottled water in their vending machines and re-instituted the water fountain. The town of Guelph, Ontario, prides itself on bringing in tap water and has set up water stations at festivals and other public events. This is a respectful and responsible action to address the bottled water issue.
- Because public access is limited: When I was going to school in Quebec, there were public fountains everywhere, it seemed. In parks, public areas and particularly in my school. And I happily made use of them. Nowadays, I am pleasantly surprised when I find one and when it works—like at the University of Toronto campus, where I currently teach. “A lot of school boards are taking back the tap,” says Mike Nagy of Wellington Water Watchers. Other places are following suit, particularly in concert with removal of bottled water vending machines.
- Because they fear tap water: some people believe that tap water is unsafe or that bottled water is of higher quality than tap water. This is a false fear. Health Canada has proven that tap water is of equal quality—if not better quality—than bottled water.
In addition to these, I would add:
- Because it’s convenient: People have become accustomed to having water with them wherever they go. Many think they need to drink all the time and must have water ready with them. In fact, we consume water in our food, drinking other beverages, breathing in the air, by taking showers and baths, and so forth. Don’t get suckered into the feeling that you need to carry water with you at all times.
In choosing to buy bottled water, you imply a choice against tap water. In doing that, you support the implication that water is a commodity to buy and sell, rather than a national heritage and the right of all citizens of this planet—with associated individual, national and global responsibility to keep clean and sustain for our future generations and planet’s well being.
“Water is a public trust,” says Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the President of the United Nations. “This means that no one owns water in a jurisdiction but rather that it belongs to a nation’s citizens, the ecosystem and the future.”
To buy bottled water is literally to buy into a paradigm that accepts that water is not free but can be bought and sold. It makes water a commodity. Water is a natural right for all living things on this planet, humans, plants and wildlife. Water is necessary to all life. Without water all life dies. All life has the right to clean drinking water, and to use it wisely. No one should own it or abuse it.
Reasons to avoid buying bottled water:
- Because the bottles litter our environment: The over 300 billion pounds of plastic containers that hold water are littering our landfills and oceans for hundreds of years. A human-made plastic island about the size of Texas is currently floating in the Pacific Ocean and contributing to many unforeseen detrimental effects on ocean life. Contrary to popular belief, only 35% of plastic water bottles are recycled. The rest end up in our landfills and our oceans.
- Because they overuse and deplete key watersheds: Coke, Pepsi, Neslé and others “mine” aquifers of community watersheds for profit and often without regard for local needs. Nestlé, for example, is currently taking 3.6 million litres of groundwater per day in Aberfoyle, Ontario, depleting the nearby community at Mill Creek (Council of Canadians). Go to the following page for more on what Neslé is doing to watersheds in Canada.
- Because they contribute to climate change: The production and transportation of bottled water produce greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change.
- Because it’s not as good for you: contrary to popular belief, water kept in plastic bottles may be less clean, may accumulate plastic residue and is less regulated than public water. Studies have proven that there is less arsenic in Cleveland tap water than in Fiji water.
- Because it’s NOT smart and it’s irresponsible. Indeed, it’s a fact that many bottling companies, including Nestlé and Coca-Cola, sell tap water in a bottle. So, what you’re really paying for is the plastic, for which fossil fuels are burned to create (not to mention used to move the water to the store), which you then throw away to contribute to landfill or the giant plastic islands now filling our precious oceans. If you have access to good tap water, which most Canadians do (with the unfortunate exception of still over 150 First Nation communities), then choosing bottle over tap is simply irresponsible. Cherish what you have, or risk losing it.
- Because it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure that we all have access to safe and clean drinking water and the best way to do that is to protect our tap water—by using it.
If you wish to carry water with you, and have decided to make an environmentally friendly gesture by reusing your old PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, keep in mind that it may promote health issues, including the leaching of DEHP, a potent carcinogen. Bisphenol A may leach into your drinking water from a polycarbonate bottle. It’s best to use an aluminum bottle or a stainless steel bottle. Glass also works, although it’s obvious breakability makes it less attractive as a mobile choice. However, that is what I have been using up to now.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.