Andrew’s Blog

365 Ways #156–Smarter people drink more water Posted on September 28, 2010, 0 Comments

#156--The human brain weighs about 1500 grams and "floats" on the cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. This offers the brain some protection against sudden jolts or impacts. When dehydrated, there isn't enough of this fluid to displace the brain, and the brain literally sinks down. Impaired by its own weight, the brain loses neurons as they die due to a compromised blood supply. Additionally, the brain is 85% water. So like a plum slowly turning into a prune, chronic dehydration causes the brain to shrink and key regulatory functions to be inhibited. So if you're smart, you'll drink enough pure, clean water to stay that way.

365 Ways #137–Hydrate before you medicate Posted on September 18, 2010, 0 Comments

#137–Your brain is very sensitive to dehydration. Made up of 85% water, as little as 1% loss in hydration levels can cause signs of malfunctioning. Headaches, fatigue, mental fog, depression–any physical or emotional or mental dysfunction with no clear etiology should first be addressed with adequate water intake. You’re not sick, you’re thirsty!

365 Ways #124–Chlorine: it’s not just for swimming anymore! Posted on September 15, 2010, 0 Comments

#124–Want another reason you should be filtering your water? Chlorine has been linked to cancer. Combined with natural organic matter, chlorine creates cancer-causing trihalomethanes (THMs). These THM’s are formed as a by-product of using chlorine to disinfect the water. Many governments impose limits for acceptable levels in the water supply, but I think none would be a good goal.

Studies from Louisiana, Maryland, New York, and Ohio reveal where there are higher levels of THMs there are higher levels of cancer. Get the chlorine out with a quality filter like the one from Aquasana:

365 Ways #97–Fluoride doesn’t belong in People Posted on September 07, 2010, 0 Comments

#97–Time Magazine’s April 12th, 2010 issue lists the Top 10 Toxins Lurking at Home. Fluoride, which I’ve written about extensively and still had to defend my position because it conflicted with the indoctrinated beliefs of some people, is one of them. Of course, people who first said the earth was round or orbited the sun were burnt at the stake. So I guess I should be thankful when folks get just get their panties in a wad instead of going medieval on me. Now that this info is making the mainstream media and not just published in scientific publications, perhaps the naysayers will actually be convinced. That is IF they can put their People Magazines down long enough to read it.

365 Ways #74–What your body aches are telling you Posted on August 30, 2010, 0 Comments

#74–any pain in your body of unknown etiology (for example: your knee hurts but you didn’t hit your knee or exercise excessively) can often be traced to a local dehydration. So before reaching for some Advil because your back is bothering or some other place on your body aches, you should first try drinking some water. After all, a headache is not a sign that you have an ibuprofen deficiency in the body.

365 Ways #72–The fight against bottled water Posted on August 30, 2010, 0 Comments

#72–Since Take Back the Tap started in 2005, they’ve been urging consumers to take back the tap. And just this week there have been some encouraging signs that the bottled water industry is on the decline. Dannon, the owner of the Evian bottled water brand, just reported a 10 percent decline in its 2009 sales, and Nestle Waters of North America recently reported its bottled water sales fell by 5.5 percent last year. Consumers are realizing that tap water is an environmentally responsible choice that costs much less.

We have an important opportunity to stand up for tap water on World Water Day, which is March 22nd. World Water Day was established by the United Nations to bring international attention to global water problems. Though the day is behind us on the calendar, celebration of this movement continues. So I am asking you to take the pledge to stop drinking bottled water. This environmentally damaging product actually contributes to the world’s water problems which you can learn more about by watching the documentary F.L.O.W.

Sign the pledge to Take Back the Tap:

365 Ways #67–Buying the right filter for your water Posted on August 27, 2010, 0 Comments

#67–I hope you’re not drinking bottled water since you’re aware of its expense on both the world environment and on the environment of your body. I recommend filtered tap water. But there are some filters which I wouldn’t recommend based on how they work.

A system which utilizes distillation (removing substances based on their relative boiling point) is not sufficient. Almost all synthetic chemicals boil at a lower temperature than water and are, therefore, vaporized and condensed along with the water you’re going to drink. Filters which work by reverse osmosis remove contaminants based on molecular size. Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals (like fungicides and herbicides) are molecularly smaller than water, so they aren’t removed during the filtration process. Your best bet is to find a quality filter which employs a multi-stage process to clean your water effectively. The one I recommend is found on the Andrew Recommends page of my website  (

365 Ways #53–your 4 pound immune system Posted on August 22, 2010, 0 Comments

#53–The human intestinal track is home to over 4lbs of bacteria. In fact, humans have approximately 100 TRILLION cells but ten times that amount in bacteria. And when these creatures in your gut are healthy, you’re healthy. In fact, as much as 70% of your immune system is in your digestive system. Problem is, most people are in a state of dysbiosis where the number of healthy bacteria vs. harmful bacteria is reversed. You should have 85% good to 15% bad. But many lifestyle factors can cause the unhealthy bacteria to take over. Sugar/grain consumption is one. Antibiotic abuse is another. Even birth control pills can cause the bad bacteria to flourish. The most common offender, however, is the chlorine in our water supply. Used to kill dangerous pathogens in our drinking water, the chlorine does a good job of wiping out our beneficial bacteria any time we drink unfiltered tap water. The problem is, the only bacteria which typically survive this onslaught is the UNHEALTHY bacteria. So every time you think you’re doing your body good by hydrating with tap water that has not been filtered by a quality filter designed to eliminate chlorine, you’re killing the good guys in your gut and having a virtual open house for the bad ones. And you’re not gonna like the house warming gift they get for you….

365 Ways #39–the 8 x 8 theory of hydration Posted on August 19, 2010, 0 Comments

#39–Do you need to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day to stay optimally hydrated? Well, that depends. How much do you weigh? The average person needs to drink approximately half their body weight in pounds in ounces of water each day to maintain an ideal state of hydration. So if you’re 128lbs, then the 8 x 8oz rule is more/less right on–assuming you’re not also drinking coffee, soda, tea, alcohol, or even juices. Doing so necessitates additional levels of hydration to process and assimilate these liquids in the body. If consumption doesn’t meet demand, you have a shortage in the body. This localized thirst often manifests as pain or dysfunctions such as high blood pressure or allergies. 75% of the body (like the earth, interestingly enough) is water. And every physiological process in the body requires adequate levels of water to be performed efficiently. So who came up with the 8 x 8 rule which most of us believe is gospel? Someone who weighed 128lbs, or, since the brain is 85% water, a heavier person who was severely dehydrated.

365 Ways #17–Movies worth watching for your health Posted on August 12, 2010, 0 Comments

#17–Some personal/global environment documentaries worth watching (and I’ll come back to this one and add titles as I think of them):

Trashed (about trash and the over 4.5lbs the avg American makes a day)
Garbage Warrior
The Future of Food
Blue Gold (about the upcoming/current water wars)
F.L.O.W. For Love of Water
Supersize Me
Sweet Misery (about aspartame)
Cane Toads: An Unnatural History
Manufactured Landscapes
Who Killed the Electric Car?
11th Hour
What the Bleep Do We Know?
King Corn
Plastic Planet
The Real Dirt On Farmer John
The Corporation
What In The World Are They Spraying

365 Ways #13–Take Back the Tap! Posted on August 10, 2010, 0 Comments

#13–Save some green by going green and Take Back the Tap! Buy a quality filter like the one from Aquasana on my website and vow not to drink bottled water anymore. You should also voice your opinion at restaurants, asking them not to sell bottled water. More and more restaurants are joining this cause including the Iberian Pig in my hometown of Decatur (

Besides the drain on your wallet, the environmental burden of bottled water is staggering. Supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (source: the Container Recycling Institute). Additionally, billions of plastic water bottles end up in the trash each year, adding to our landfills and leaching toxins into the groundwater. This injustice continues practically forever since plastic never biodegrades. It’s difficult to live in the Now when we’re harming our future water supply.

So go to for more information on what you can do to Take Back the Tap.

365 Ways #5–my response to the pro-fluoride crowd Posted on August 02, 2010, 0 Comments

And here's my response to some pro-fluoride comments I received:

#5—Can we at least agree that Lead is not healthy and shouldn’t be in our water supply? The Environmental Protection Agency has set the MCL (Maximum Content Level) for Lead in drinking water at .015 ppm (.015mg/liter). That’s pretty low. Their goal is 0 ppm. But nobody is perfect, so let’s just assume .015ppm is low enough to be safe. After all, the most recent edition of the Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products only lists Lead as somewhere between moderately toxic and very toxic. There are many other substances which, if consumed, would be far worse. Interestingly enough, one of these is Fluoride; it’s clearly ranked by the CTCP as very toxic. Yet, the artificial fluoridation of our water supply is, on average, 1 ppm. That’s 67 times higher than the acceptable level for lead—in 4 cups! Boy, I need a drink!

But all that Fluoride must somehow be good for my teeth—that’s why it’s in our water in the first place. I mean, cavities are a sure sign we have a fluoride deficiency in our bodies, right? Well, one of the largest studies on the effectiveness of fluoride is one from New Zealand where, examining the teeth of every child in key age groups, it was concluded that the teeth of children in non-fluoridated cities were slightly better than those in the fluoridated cities. (Colquhoun, J. “Child Dental Health Differences in New Zealand”, Community Healthy Services, XI 85-90, 1987). A dentist named H.T. Dean did “research” back in 1939 that set the current level of fluoride in the U.S. water supply saying that this “optimal dose” would give everyone perfect teeth free of dental cavities. Sounds good to me. Only it didn’t sound good to some scientists who investigated Dean’s data and forced him, under oath, to admit his data was invalid. In fact, in 1957, Dean admitted at AMA hearings that as little as .1ppm could cause dental fluorosis—an early sign of fluoride poisoning.

See, fluoride is a cumulative toxin. Its MCL level (4ppm) is set to prevent the third and most severe stage of Crippling Skeletal Fluorisis. But a 1991 report by the U.S. Public Health Service showed that total fluoride intake from water, toothpastes/rinses, air, supplements, and food (non-organic foods carry high levels of fluoride due to the application of pesticides) was in excess of 6.5 ppm. Some estimates set this number as high as 8ppm. One of the worst offenders in the food supply is tea. They drink a lot of that stuff over in England. Wonder what their teeth look like? It’s also in Prozac—but who knows anyone on that med? I do know a lot of people taking Synthroid. It was the top selling drug in 1999. And hasn’t fluoride been used for decades as an effective treatment for hyperthyroidism, and at levels well below the current “optimal” intake? Wonder if ingesting all this fluoride jacked up their thyroid glands so much they needed medical intervention….

Look, I know a lot of people may find this information hard to believe. When a person has beliefs or values that are called into question, it’s easy for that person to consider it a personal attack. That’s not my intention. I just want people to open their eyes. Don’t just believe something is true because a person with some impressive initials after his name told you it is. I don’t care if it’s your teacher, your doctor, or (god forbid) Oprah Winfrey. Do your own research. See if it makes sense—common sense. Mark Twain once said “don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.” That’s harder to do for some than for others. After all, wasn’t it Mark Twain who also said that whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over?

Untitled Posted on April 02, 2009, 0 Comments

Article location:

December 19, 2007

Tags: Innovation, Ethonomics, Sales and Marketing, Environmental Activism

Message in a Bottle

The largest bottled-water factory in North America is located on the outskirts of Hollis, Maine. In the back of the plant stretches the staging area for finished product: 24 million bottles of Poland Spring water. As far as the eye can see, there are double-stacked pallets packed with half-pint bottles, half-liters, liters, "Aquapods" for school lunches, and 2.5-gallon jugs for the refrigerator.

Really, it is a lake of Poland Spring water, conveniently celled off in plastic, extending across 6 acres, 8 feet high. A week ago, the lake was still underground; within five days, it will all be gone, to supermarkets and convenience stores across the Northeast, replaced by another lake's worth of bottles.

Looking at the piles of water, you can have only one thought: Americans sure are thirsty.

Bottled water has become the indispensable prop in our lives and our culture. It starts the day in lunch boxes; it goes to every meeting, lecture hall, and soccer match; it's in our cubicles at work; in the cup holder of the treadmill at the gym; and it's rattling around half-finished on the floor of every minivan in America. Fiji Water shows up on the ABC show Brothers & Sisters; Poland Spring cameos routinely on NBC's The Office. Every hotel room offers bottled water for sale, alongside the increasingly ignored ice bucket and drinking glasses. At Whole Foods, the upscale emporium of the organic and exotic, bottled water is the number-one item by units sold.

Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets--$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.

Bottled water is the food phenomenon of our times. We--a generation raised on tap water and water fountains--drink a billion bottles of water a week, and we're raising a generation that views tap water with disdain and water fountains with suspicion. We've come to pay good money--two or three or four times the cost of gasoline--for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.

When we buy a bottle of water, what we're often buying is the bottle itself, as much as the water. We're buying the convenience--a bottle at the 7-Eleven isn't the same product as tap water, any more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks is the same as a cup of coffee from the Krups machine on your kitchen counter. And we're buying the artful story the water companies tell us about the water: where it comes from, how healthy it is, what it says about us. Surely among the choices we can make, bottled water isn't just good, it's positively virtuous.

Except for this: Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 8 1/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.)

Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need. That tension is only complicated by the fact that if we suddenly decided not to purchase the lake of Poland Spring water in Hollis, Maine, none of that water would find its way to people who really are thirsty.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it's just a bottle of water--modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don't need--when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation--it's worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.

In the town of San Pellegrino Terme, Italy, for example, is a spigot that runs all the time, providing San Pellegrino water free to the local citizens--except the free Pellegrino has no bubbles. Pellegrino trucks in the bubbles for the bottling plant. The man who first brought bottled water to the United States famously failed an impromptu taste test involving his own product. In Maine, there is a marble temple to honor our passion for bottled water.

And in Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water. Which means it is easier for the typical American in Beverly Hills or Baltimore to get a drink of safe, pure, refreshing Fiji water than it is for most people in Fiji.

At the Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills, where the rooms start at $500 a night and the guest next door might well be an Oscar winner, the minibar in all 196 rooms contains six bottles of Fiji Water. Before Fiji Water displaced Evian, Diet Coke was the number-one-selling minibar item. Now, says Christian Boyens, the Peninsula's elegant director of food and beverage, "the 1 liter of Fiji Water is number one. Diet Coke is number two. And the 500-milliliter bottle of Fiji is number three."

Being the water in the Peninsula minibar is so desirable--not just for the money to be made, but for the exposure with the Peninsula's clientele--that Boyens gets a sales call a week from a company trying to dislodge Fiji.

Boyens, who has an MBA from Cornell, used to be indifferent to water. Not anymore. His restaurants and bars carry 20 different waters. "Sometimes a guest will ask for Poland Spring, and you can't get Poland Spring in California," he says. So what does he do? "We'll call the Peninsula in New York and have them FedEx out a case.

"I thought water was water. But our customers know what they want."

The marketing of bottled water is subtle compared with the marketing of, say, soft drinks or beer. The point of Fiji Water in the minibar at the Peninsula, or at the center of the table in a white-tablecloth restaurant, is that guests will try it, love it, and buy it at a store the next time they see it.

Which isn't difficult, because the water aisle in a suburban supermarket typically stocks a dozen brands of water--not including those enhanced with flavors or vitamins or, yes, oxygen. In 1976, the average American drank 1.6 gallons of bottled water a year, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. Last year, we each drank 28.3 gallons of bottled water--18 half-liter bottles a month. We drink more bottled water than milk, or coffee, or beer. Only carbonated soft drinks are more popular than bottled water, at 52.9 gallons annually.

No one has experienced this transformation more profoundly than Kim Jeffery. Jeffery began his career in the water business in the Midwest in 1978, selling Perrier ("People didn't know whether to put it in their lawn mower or drink it," he says). Now he's the CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, in charge of U.S. sales of Perrier, San Pellegrino, Poland Spring, and a portfolio of other regional natural springwaters. Combined, his brands will sell some $4.5 billion worth of water this year (generating roughly $500 million in pretax profit). Jeffery insists that unlike the soda business, which is stoked by imaginative TV and marketing campaigns, the mainstream water business is, quite simply, "a force of nature."

"The entire bottled-water business today is half the size of the carbonated beverage industry," says Jeffery, "but our marketing budget is 15% of what they spend. When you put a bottle of water in that cold box, it's the most thirst-quenching beverage there is. There's nothing in it that's not good for you. People just know that intuitively.

"A lot of people tell me, you guys have done some great marketing to get customers to pay for water," Jeffery says. "But we aren't that smart. We had to have a hell of a lot of help from the consumer."

Still, we needed help learning to drink bottled water. For that, we can thank the French.

Gustave Leven was the chairman of Source Perrier when he approached an American named Bruce Nevins in 1976. Nevins was working for the athletic-wear company Pony. Leven was a major Pony investor. "He wanted me to consider the water business in the U.S.," Nevins says. "I was a bit reluctant." Back then, the American water industry was small and fusty, built on home and office delivery of big bottles and grocery sales of gallon jugs.

Nevins looked out across 1970s America, though, and had an epiphany: Perrier wasn't just water. It was a beverage. The opportunity was in persuading people to drink Perrier when they would otherwise have had a cocktail or a Coke. Americans were already drinking 30 gallons of soft drinks each a year, and the three-martini lunch was increasingly viewed as a problem. Nevins saw a niche.

From the start, Nevins pioneered a three-part strategy. First, he connected bottled water to exclusivity: In 1977, just before Perrier's U.S. launch, he flew 60 journalists to France to visit "the source" where Perrier bubbled out of the ground. He connected Perrier to health, sponsoring the New York City Marathon, just as long-distance running was exploding as a fad across America. And he associated Perrier with celebrity, launching with $4 million in TV commercials featuring Orson Welles. It worked. In 1978, its first full year in the United States, Perrier sold $20 million of water. The next year, sales tripled to $60 million.

What made Perrier distinctive was that it was a sparkling water, served in a signature glass bottle. But that's also what left the door open for Evian, which came to the United States in 1984. Evian's U.S. marketing was built around images of toned young men and women in tight clothes sweating at the gym. Madonna drank Evian--often onstage at concerts. "If you were cool, you were drinking bottled water," says Ed Slade, who became Evian's vice president of marketing in 1990. "It was a status symbol."

Evian was also a still water, which Americans prefer; and it was the first to offer a plastic bottle nationwide. The clear bottle allowed us to see the water--how clean and refreshing it looked on the shelf. Americans have never wanted water in cans, which suggest a tinny aftertaste before you take a sip. The plastic bottle, in fact, did for water what the pop-top can had done for soda: It turned water into an anywhere, anytime beverage, at just the moment when we decided we wanted a beverage, everywhere, all the time.

Perrier and Evian launched the bottled-water business just as it would prove irresistible. Convenience and virtue aligned. Two-career families, overprogrammed children, prepared foods in place of home-cooked meals, the constant urging to eat more healthfully and drink less alcohol--all reinforce the value of bottled water. But those trends also reinforce the mythology.

We buy bottled water because we think it's healthy. Which it is, of course: Every 12-year-old who buys a bottle of water from a vending machine instead of a 16-ounce Coke is inarguably making a healthier choice. But bottled water isn't healthier, or safer, than tap water. Indeed, while the United States is the single biggest consumer in the world's $50 billion bottled-water market, it is the only one of the top four--the others are Brazil, China, and Mexico--that has universally reliable tap water. Tap water in this country, with rare exceptions, is impressively safe. It is monitored constantly, and the test results made public. Mineral water has a long association with medicinal benefits--and it can provide minerals that people need--but there are no scientific studies establishing that routinely consuming mineral water improves your health. The FDA, in fact, forbids mineral waters in the United States from making any health claims.

If the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.

And for this healthy convenience, we're paying what amounts to an unbelievable premium. You can buy a half- liter Evian for $1.35--17 ounces of water imported from France for pocket change. That water seems cheap, but only because we aren't paying attention.

In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.

Taste, of course, is highly personal. New Yorkers excepted, Americans love to belittle the quality of their tap water. But in blind taste tests, with waters at equal temperatures, presented in identical glasses, ordinary people can rarely distinguish between tap water, springwater, and luxury waters. At the height of Perrier's popularity, Bruce Nevins was asked on a live network radio show one morning to pick Perrier from a lineup of seven carbonated waters served in paper cups. It took him five tries.

We are actually in the midst of a second love affair with bottled water. In the United States, many of the earliest, still-familiar brands of springwater--Poland Spring, Saratoga Springs, Deer Park, Arrowhead--were originally associated with resort and spa complexes. The water itself, pure at a time when cities struggled to provide safe water, was the source of the enterprise.

In the late 1800s, Poland Spring was already a renowned brand of healthful drinking water that you could get home-delivered in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago. It was also a sprawling summer resort complex, with thousands of guests and three Victorian hotels, some of which had bathtubs with spigots that allowed guests to bathe in Poland Spring water. The resort burned in 1976, but at the crest of a hill in Poland Spring, Maine, you can still visit a marble-and-granite temple built in 1906 to house the original spring.

24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi. 

The car, the Depression, World War II, and perhaps most important, clean, safe municipal water, unwound the resorts and the first wave of water as business. We had to wait two generations for the second, which would turn out to be much different--and much larger.

Today, for all the apparent variety on the shelf, bottled water is dominated in the United States and worldwide by four huge companies. Pepsi has the nation's number-one-selling bottled water, Aquafina, with 13% of the market. Coke's Dasani is number two, with 11% of the market. Both are simply purified municipal water--so 24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi for our convenience. Evian is owned by Danone, the French food giant, and distributed in the United States by Coke.
The really big water company in the United States is Nestlé, which gradually bought up the nation's heritage brands, and expanded them. The waters are slightly different--springwater must come from actual springs, identified specifically on the label--but together, they add up to 26% of the market, according to Beverage Marketing, surpassing Coke and Pepsi's brands combined.
Since most water brands are owned by larger companies, it's hard to get directly at the economics. But according to those inside the business, half the price of a typical $1.29 bottle goes to the retailer. As much as a third goes to the distributor and transport. Another 12 to 15 cents is the cost of the water itself, the bottle and the cap. That leaves roughly a dime of profit. On multipacks, that profit is more like 2 cents a bottle.
As the abundance in the supermarket water aisle shows, that business is now trying to help us find new waters to drink and new occasions for drinking them--trying to get more mouth share, as it were. Aquafina marketing vice president Ahad Afridi says his team has done the research to understand what kind of water drinkers we are. They've found six types, including the "water pure-fectionist"; the "water explorer"; the "image seeker"; and the "struggler" ("they don't really like water that much...these are the people who have a cheeseburger with a diet soda").
It's a startling level of thought and analysis--until you realize that within a decade, our consumption of bottled water is expected to surpass soda. That kind of market can't be left to chance. Aquafina's fine segmentation is all about the newest explosion of waters that aren't really water--flavored waters, enhanced waters, colored waters, water drinks branded after everything from Special K breakfast cereal to Tropicana juice.
Afridi is a true believer. He talks about water as if it were more than a drink, more than a product--as if it were a character all its own, a superhero ready to take the pure-fectionist, the water explorer, and the struggler by the hand and carry them to new water adventures. "Water as a beverage has more right to extend and enter into more territories than any other beverage," Afridi says. "Water has a right to travel where others can't."
Uh, meaning what?
"Water that's got vitamins in it. Water that's got some immunity-type benefit to it. Water that helps keep skin younger. Water that gives you energy."
Water: It's pure, it's healthy, it's perfect--and we've made it better. The future of water sounds distinctly unlike water. 
The label on a bottle of Fiji Water says "from the islands of Fiji." Journey to the source of that water, and you realize just how extraordinary that promise is. From New York, for instance, it is an 18-hour plane ride west and south (via Los Angeles) almost to Australia, and then a four-hour drive along Fiji's two-lane King's Highway.
Every bottle of Fiji Water goes on its own version of this trip, in reverse, although by truck and ship. In fact, since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles' journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation--which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it. 
The bubbles in San Pellegrino are extracted from volcanic springs in Tuscany, then trucked north and injected into the water from the source. 
That is not the only environmental cost embedded in each bottle of Fiji Water. The Fiji Water plant is a state-of-the-art facility that runs 24 hours a day. That means it requires an uninterrupted supply of electricity--something the local utility structure cannot support. So the factory supplies its own electricity, with three big generators running on diesel fuel. The water may come from "one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth," as some of the labels say, but out back of the bottling plant is a less pristine ecosystem veiled with a diesel haze. 
Each water bottler has its own version of this oxymoron: that something as pure and clean as water leaves a contrail.
San Pellegrino's 1-liter glass bottles--so much a part of the mystique of the water itself--weigh five times what plastic bottles weigh, dramatically adding to freight costs and energy consumption. The bottles are washed and rinsed, with mineral water, before being filled with sparkling Pellegrino--it uses up 2 liters of water to prepare the bottle for the liter we buy. The bubbles in San Pellegrino come naturally from the ground, as the label says, but not at the San Pellegrino source. Pellegrino chooses its CO2 carefully--it is extracted from supercarbonated volcanic springwaters in Tuscany, then trucked north and bubbled into Pellegrino. 
Poland Spring may not have any oceans to traverse, but it still must be trucked hundreds of miles from Maine to markets and convenience stores across its territory in the northeast--it is 312 miles from the Hollis plant to midtown Manhattan. Our desire for Poland Spring has outgrown the springs at Poland Spring's two Maine plants; the company runs a fleet of 80 silver tanker trucks that continuously crisscross the state of Maine, delivering water from other springs to keep its bottling plants humming. 
We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year--in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.In transportation terms, perhaps the waters with the least environmental impact are Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani. Both start with municipal water. That allows the companies to use dozens of bottling plants across the nation, reducing how far bottles must be shipped.
Yet Coke and Pepsi add in a new step. They put the local water through an energy-intensive reverse-osmosis filtration process more potent than that used to turn seawater into drinking water. The water they are purifying is ready to drink--they are recleaning perfectly clean tap water. They do it so marketing can brag about the purity, and to provide consistency: So a bottle of Aquafina in Austin and a bottle in Seattle taste the same, regardless of the municipal source.
There is one more item in bottled water's environmental ledger: the bottles themselves. The big springwater companies tend to make their own bottles in their plants, just moments before they are filled with water--12, 19, 30 grams of molded plastic each. Americans went through about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, 167 for each person. Durable, lightweight containers manufactured just to be discarded. Water bottles are made of totally recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, so we share responsibility for their impact: Our recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year--more than $1 billion worth of plastic. 
Some of the water companies are acutely aware that every business, every product, every activity is under environmental scrutiny like never before. Nestlé Waters has just redesigned its half-liter bottle, the most popular size among the 18 billion bottles the company will mold this year, to use less plastic. The lighter bottle and cap require 15 grams of plastic instead of 19 grams, a reduction of 20%. The bottle feels flimsy--it uses half the plastic of Fiji Water's half-liter bottle--and CEO Jeffery says that crushable feeling should be the new standard for bottled-water cachet.
"As we've rolled out the lightweight bottle, people have said, 'Well, that feels cheap,'" says Jeffery. "And that's good. If it feels solid like a Gatorade bottle or a Fiji bottle, that's not so good." Of course, lighter bottles are also cheaper for Nestlé to produce and ship. Good environmentalism equals good business. 
John Mackey is the CEO and cofounder of Whole Foods Market, the national organic-and-natural grocery chain. No one thinks about the environmental and social impacts and the larger context of food more incisively than Mackey--so he's a good person to help frame the ethical questions around bottled water. 
Mackey and his wife have a water filter at home, and don't typically drink bottled water there. "If I go to a movie," he says, "I'll smuggle in a bottle of filtered water from home. I don't want to buy a Coke there, and why buy another bottle of water--$3 for 16 ounces?" But he does drink bottled water at work: Whole Foods' house brand, 365 Water.
"You can compare bottled water to tap water and reach one set of conclusions," says Mackey, referring both to environmental and social ramifications. "But if you compare it with other packaged beverages, you reach another set of conclusions.
"It's unfair to say bottled water is causing extra plastic in landfills, and it's using energy transporting it," he says. "There's a substitution effect--it's substituting for juices and Coke and Pepsi." Indeed, we still drink almost twice the amount of soda as water--which is, in fact, 90% water and also in containers made to be discarded. If bottled water raises environmental and social issues, don't soft drinks raise all those issues, plus obesity concerns?
What's different about water, of course, is that it runs from taps in our homes, or from fountains in public spaces. Soda does not.  As for the energy used to transport water from overseas, Mackey says it is no more or less wasteful than the energy used to bring merlot from France or coffee from Ethiopia, raspberries from Chile or iPods from China. "Have we now decided that the use of any fossil fuel is somehow unethical?" Mackey asks. "I don't think water should be picked on. Why is the iPod okay and the water is not?" 
Mackey's is a merchant's approach to the issue of bottled water--it's a choice for people to make in the market. Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer takes an ethicist's approach. Singer has coauthored two books that grapple specifically with the question of what it means to eat ethically--how responsible are we for the negative impact, even unknowing, of our food choices on the world? 
"Where the drinking water is safe, bottled water is simply a superfluous luxury that we should do without," he says. "How is it different than French merlot? One difference is the value of the product, in comparison to the value of transporting and packaging it. It's far lower in the bottled water than in the wine.
"And buying the merlot may help sustain a tradition in the French countryside that we value--a community, a way of life, a set of values that would disappear if we stopped buying French wines. I doubt if you travel to Fiji you would find a tradition of cultivation of Fiji water.
"We're completely thoughtless about handing out $1 for this bottle of water, when there are virtually identical alternatives for free. It's a level of affluence that we just take for granted. What could you do? Put that dollar in a jar on the counter instead, carry a water bottle, and at the end of the month, send all the money to Oxfam or CARE and help someone who has real needs. And you're no worse off."
Beyond culture and the product's value, Singer makes one exception. "You know, they do import Kenyan vegetables by air into London. Fresh peas from Kenya, sent by airplane to London. That provides employment for people who have few opportunities to get themselves out of poverty. So despite the fuel consumption, we're supporting a developing country, we're working against poverty, we're working for global equity.
"Those issues are relevant. Presumably, for instance, bottling water in Fiji is fairly automated. But if there were 10,000 Fijians carefully filtering the water through coconut fiber--well, that would be a better argument for drinking it." 
Marika, an elder from the Fijian village of Drauniivi, is sitting cross-legged on a hand-woven mat before a wooden bowl, where his weathered hands are filtering Fiji Water through a long bag of ground kava root. Marika is making a bowl of grog, a lightly narcotic beverage that is an anchor of traditional Fiji society. People with business to conduct sit wearing the traditional Fijian skirt, and drink round after round of grog, served in half a coconut shell, as they discuss the matters at hand.
Marika is using Fiji Water--the same Fiji Water in the minibars of the Peninsula Hotel--because Drauniivi is one of the five rural villages near the Fiji Water bottling plant where the plant's workers live. Drauniivi and Beverly Hills are part of the same bottled-water supply chain.
Jim Siplon, an American who manages Fiji Water's 10-year-old bottling plant in Fiji, has arranged the grog ceremony. "This is the soul of Fiji Water," he says. The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and goes through four rounds of grog, which tastes a little furry. Marika is interrupted twice by his cell phone, which he pulls from a pocket in his skirt. It is shift change at the plant, and Marika coordinates the minibus network that transports villagers to and from work.
 Fiji Water is the product of these villages, a South Pacific aquifer, and a state-of-the-art bottling plant in a part of Fiji even the locals consider remote. The plant, on the northeast coast of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, is a white two-story building that looks like a 1970s-era junior high school. The entrance faces the interior of Viti Levu and a cloud-shrouded ridge of volcanic mountains.
Inside, the plant is in almost every way indistinguishable from Pellegrino's plant in Italy, or Poland Spring's in Hollis, filled with computer-controlled bottle-making and bottle-filling equipment. Line number two can spin out 1 million bottles of Fiji Water a day, enough to load 40 20-foot shipping containers; the factory has three lines. 
The plant employs 200 islanders--set to increase to 250 this year--most with just a sixth- or eighth-grade education. Even the entry-level jobs pay twice the informal minimum wage. But these are more than simply jobs--they are jobs in a modern factory, in a place where there aren't jobs of any sort beyond the villages. And the jobs are just part of an ecosystem emerging around the plant--water-based trickle-down economics, as it were.
Siplon, a veteran telecom manager from MCI, wants Fiji Water to feel like a local company in Fiji. (It was purchased in 2004 by privately owned Roll International, which also owns POM Wonderful and is one of the largest producers of nuts in the United States.) He uses a nearby company to print the carrying handles for Fiji Water six-packs and buys engineering services and cardboard boxes on the island. By long-standing arrangement, the plant has seeded a small business in the villages that contracts with the plant to provide landscaping and security, and runs the bus system that Marika helps manage.
In 2007, Fiji Water will mark a milestone. "Even though you can drive for hours and hours on this island past cane fields," says Siplon, "sometime this year, Fiji Water will eclipse sugarcane as the number-one export." That is, the amount of sugar harvested and processed for export by some 40,000 seasonal sugar workers will equal in dollar value the amount of water bottled and shipped by 200 water bottlers.
However we regard Fiji Water in the United States--essential accessory, harmless treat, or frivolous excess--the closer you get to the source of its water, the more significant the enterprise looks.
No, no coconut-fiber filtering, but rather, a toehold in the global economy. Are 10,000 Fijians benefiting? Not directly. Perhaps 2,000. But Fiji Water is providing something else to a tiny nation of 850,000 people, which has been buffeted by two coups in seven years, and the collapse of its gold-mining and textiles industries: inspiration, a vision of what the country might have to offer the rest of the world. Developed countries are keen for myriad variations on just what Fiji Water is--a pure, unadulterated, organic, and natural product. Fiji has whole vistas of untouched, organic-ready farmland. Indeed, the hottest topic this spring (beyond politics) was how to jump-start an organic-sugar industry.
Of course, the irony of shipping a precious product from a country without reliable water service is hard to avoid. This spring, typhoid from contaminated drinking water swept one of Fiji's islands, sickening dozens of villagers and killing at least one. Fiji Water often quietly supplies emergency drinking water in such cases. The reality is, if Fiji Water weren't tapping its aquifer, the underground water would slide into the Pacific Ocean, somewhere just off the coast. But the corresponding reality is, someone else--the Fijian government, an NGO--could be tapping that supply and sending it through a pipe to villagers who need it. Fiji Water has, in fact, done just that, to some degree--20 water projects in the five nearby villages. Indeed, Roll has reinvested every dollar of profit since 2004 back into the business and the island.
Siplon acknowledges the risk of slipping into capitalistic neo-colonialism. "Does the world need Fiji Water?" he asks. "I'm not sure I agree with the critics on that. This company has the potential of delivering great value--or the results a cynic might have expected." 
Water is, in fact, often the perfect beverage--healthy, refreshing, and satisfying in a way soda or juice aren't. A good choice. 
Worldwide, 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water; 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water. 
Nestlé Waters' Kim Jeffery may be defending his industry when he calls bottled water "a force of nature," but he's also not wrong. Our consumption of bottled water has outstripped any marketer's dreams or talent: If you break out the single-serve plastic bottle as its own category, our consumption of bottled water grew a thousandfold between 1984 and 2005.
In the array of styles, choices, moods, and messages available today, water has come to signify how we think of ourselves. We want to brand ourselves--as Madonna did--even with something as ordinary as a drink of water. We imagine there is a difference between showing up at the weekly staff meeting with Aquafina, or Fiji, or a small glass bottle of Pellegrino. Which is, of course, a little silly.
Bottled water is not a sin. But it is a choice.
Packing bottled water in lunch boxes, grabbing a half-liter from the fridge as we dash out the door, piling up half-finished bottles in the car cup holders--that happens because of a fundamental thoughtlessness. It's only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can't be bothered. And in a world in which 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, that conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don't need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier.
That is the sense in which Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, and Singer, the Princeton philosopher, are both right. Mackey is right that buying bottled water is a choice, and Singer is right that given the impact it has, the easy substitutes, and the thoughtless spending involved, it's fair to ask whether it's always a good choice.
The most common question the U.S. employees of Fiji Water still get is, "Does it really come from Fiji?" We're choosing Fiji Water because of the hibiscus blossom on the beautiful square bottle, we're choosing it because of the silky taste. We're seduced by the idea of a bottle of water from Fiji. We just don't believe it really comes from Fiji. What kind of a choice is that?
Once you understand the resources mustered to deliver the bottle of water, it's reasonable to ask as you reach for the next bottle, not just "Does the value to me equal the 99 cents I'm about to spend?" but "Does the value equal the impact I'm about to leave behind?"
Simply asking the question takes the carelessness out of the transaction. And once you understand where the water comes from, and how it got here, it's hard to look at that bottle in the same way again.

The ENERGY Footprint of Bottled Water Posted on April 02, 2009, 0 Comments

The Energy Footprint of Bottled Water

Our bottled water habit has a huge environmental impact, including the amount of energy it takes to make the plastic bottles, fill them and ship them to thirsty consumers worldwide.

A new study breaks down just how much energy is used at each step of the process.

An estimated total of the equivalent of 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil was required to generate the energy to produce the amount of bottled water consumed in the United States in 2007, according to the study, detailed in the January-March issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters. Of course, this is but a third of a percent of the energy that the United States consumes as a whole in a year.

In 2007, the last year for which global statistics were available, more than 200 billion liters of bottled water were sold around the world, mostly in North America and Europe. The total amount sold in the United States alone that year (33 billion liters) averages out to about 110 liters (almost 30 gallons) of water per person, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Since 2001, bottled water sales have increased by 70 percent in the United States, far surpassing those of milk and beer. Only sodas have larger sales.

The energy required to produce bottled water is particularly of interest now, at a time when many nations are looking for ways to reduce their energy use and associated climate impacts.

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research institute, and his colleague Heather Cooley recently realized that no one had done a comprehensive survey of the energy use involved in the complete production cycle of bottled water, so they took on the task.

Plastic and transportation

The energy use breaks down into roughly four parts of the production cycle: that used to make the plastic and turn it into bottles, to treat the water, to fill and cap the bottles, and finally to transport them.

"Energy is used in a lot of different phases," Gleick said.

Most plastic bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Little pellets of PET are melted and fused together to make the bottle mold. Gleick and Cooley estimated that about 1 million tons of PET were used to make plastic bottles in the United States in 2007, with 3 million tons used globally; the energy used to produce that global amount of PET and the bottles it was turned into was equivalent to about 50 billion barrels of oil, they found.

(Some companies have been shifting toward using lighter-weight plastics for their bottles, which reduces the amount of PET produced by about 30 percent and would therefore lower the amount of energy required to make them. The transition to less energy-intensive plastic is slow though, and not all companies use them.)

The amount of energy involved in that first step was a surprise to Gleick: "I didn't know how much energy it takes to make plastic or turn plastic into a bottle," he told LiveScience.

The energy required to treat water is substantially less and depends on how many treatments are used on the water and doesn't account for the bulk of the energy spent in production. Likewise, the energy used to clean, fill, seal and label the bottles is only about 0.34 percent of the energy built into the bottle itself.

The energy used to transport the bottled water depends mainly on how far it is shipped and what transportation method is used. Air cargo is the costliest energy method, followed by truck, cargo ship and rail shipping, in that order. A different study on the carbon footprint of wine also found this breakdown of energy use for transportation methods.

In their study, Gleick and Cooley used the examples of different types of water shipped to Los Angeles: water produced locally and shipped by truck involved the least amount of energy, followed by water sent by cargo ship from Fiji, with water produced in France and shipped by cargo ship and rail having the highest energy costs.

Individual choices

The final tally of 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil may be only about a third of a percent of the total U.S. energy consumption, but it could be considered an "unnecessary use of energy," Gleick said. (Roughly three times as much oil would have been needed to produce the global amount of bottled water consumed.)

The amount is 2,000 times more than is required to make tap water, "and we live in a country where we have very good tap water," Gleick said.

Gleick said that the purpose of the study was not to propose that bottled water be banned, but to help consumers "understand the implications of our choices." With the information on the energy impacts, "we may choose to do different things as individuals," he added.

Understanding the energy costs of the process also sheds light on the greenhouse gases that energy use emits. "Energy is sort of the first piece of the puzzle," Gleick said.