Eartha Steward: Bottled water – What a waste! |

Eartha Steward: Bottled water – What a waste!

Once again, we are returning to one of my favorite subjects to talk about – plastic! Tonight is the long awaited showing of a very powerful movie, “Tapped.” The movie is quite impactful, as it examines the environmental and social issues behind the bottled water industry.

By now, most of you “Ask Eartha” followers should know nothing gets me more fired up than single-use plastic bags and water bottles. It seems silly to buy bottled water in Summit County. We have very tasty tapped water! It is the reason I was shocked to hear Annie Leonard say: “… people in the U.S. buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week.”

According to Pacific Institute (, the energy costs of bottled water including the manufacture of the plastic, the bottling, and the distribution, is up to 2,000 times more than tap water. Let’s take a look at those energy costs a little more closely:

The bottle itself presents a host of wasteful problems. Derived most often from petroleum, plastic bottles for bottled water accounted for around 32-54 million barrels of oil in 2007, enough to fuel 1.5 million cars for a year! With talks of peak oil around the corner (if not already reached), it seems like such a waste to use a non-renewable resource to make a product that houses something most of us Americans can get from the tap for free.

Beyond petroleum, the making of plastic is a very chemical-intensive process. These toxins and known endocrine disruptors in plastic can often seep into our water. Just drinking water out of plastic bottles can be hazardous to your health.

Where exactly is the water coming from? One third of all bottled water is actually tap water! It even says so on the bottle. Not only is bottled water less regulated than tap water, it is up to 2,000 times more expensive. Leonard said it best with: “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

We’re not the only ones who think Colorado water is good for the body. Bottled water companies like Nestle Waters are already planning to extract more than 65 million gallons of Colorado water annually from two springs near Buena Vista. Stop Nestle, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, and several Chaffee County groups have been hard at work educating their communities about the Nestle Waters plans.

Plans include Nestle Waters’ piping groundwater five miles to a loading station where it will be trucked to Denver for bottling under the Arrowhead brand. Any day, small neighborhoods in the Chaffee County area may experience more than 20 tanker trucks zooming their streets on their 120-mile trip to the bottling plant. Can you imagine the same in Summit County?

This is just a taste of the problems with bottled water. Now called “bluewashing” instead of green washing, bottled water companies are making claims that pristine water only comes in a plastic bottle. I was even shocked to discover that America Recycles Day has now been taken over by sponsors like Nestle Waters! The truth is, only one in four of tens of billions of plastic bottles are ever recycled. Leonard calls plastic bottle recycling “downcycling” because most of the plastic is turned into lower quality plastic items that eventually get landfilled anyway.

You can learn more about bottled water issues and ways to break the bottled water habit at tonight’s showing of “Tapped.” Join the High Country Conservation Center, Grant Family Farms, and the Blue River Watershed Group at the new CMC auditorium in Breckenridge at 7 p.m. for the movie. A suggested donation of $5 goes to cover the costs of showing the film. For more about bottled water and the film, visit

Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, P.O. Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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