While traveling in Argentina I observed that many of the older women had “young” figures. However, they had horribly wrinkly skin. I also observed that water is rarely served in as much quantities as in the US. Go to a restaurant, and you are lucky to see an Argentine drink one glass. And rarely do you see a water bottle in someone’s hand.
I also read this interesting article from Fast Company — Message in a Bottle — that discusses the bottled water US phenomenon.
30 years ago, bottled water didn’t really exist. Now, it is a $16 billion industry — that’s larger than the US Box Office and Ipods. In fact, the number one selling item, per unit, at Whole Foods is bottled water. Not bad for $1.35 per plastic bottle! But here are some things to consider.
- 50% of the population of Fiji doesn’t have access to safe water. Yet that doesn’t stop the the import of Fiji Water, and the premium price paid for it.
- 1 in 6 humans do not have access to safe water, let alone water shipped from across the globe
Ok, “global considerations” aside, is bottled water really that expensive? Consider that in San Fransisco, a city which gets its municipal water from Yosemite National Forest, that much money would get you a bottle of water…every day for the next 10 and a half years. nearly. But for as expensive as it is, there isn’t much profit in this industry. While the water itself is only 12-15 cents, the profit is rarely more than a dime, even less for a multi-pack. The rest of the costs — half the cost of that bottle of water goes to the retailer, a third goes to transportation. Throw in sales/marketing, and you have some might expensive tap water shipped to your local grocer all the way from Fiji.
Ok, so it’s expensive, but it’s worth it because it’s full of minerals and such, right? Not really. Coke and Pepsi (aka Dasani and Aquafina), which own nearly a quarter of the market share, are just purified municipal water. That is — it’s about the same as running your tap water through a filter.
So why do people buy this expensive purified municipal water? That’s quite the expensive convenience! I suppose it’s better than the other option: sugary carbonated beverages. But I think the article said it best: maybe if we considered the impact of of purchases — how much energy went into shipping it here, did it help a community if not my own — rather than only considering if we are getting the best value, we could really make a difference with our purchasing power.
For me? Tap water for me at the restaurants. Filtered water at home. And I’m going to continue to keep my empty bottle in my car when I fill ‘er up at the gas station.