How Bonkers is a Bottle of Water

If you live in a place where tap water is clean and safe to drink, buying bottled water is bonkers from an environmental point of view.

New research published in August 2021 finds the environmental impact of bottled water is “up to 3,500 times greater than tap water’. And the negative impact on ecosystems is 1,400 times higher than that of tap water.

It’s not just the water itself – even tap water has to be processed, cleaned, and pumped to your home, but it’s the packaging and transport.

Manufacturing the bottle – even ignoring the cost of drilling for and extracting the oil in the first place – is a cost in itself. If you use it just once and chuck it out that can also be disastrous to the environment and oceans.

But the real cost is in transport. Water is heavy stuff, and lugging it from a factory to your local shop needs lorries probably burning diesel. And what about those trendy waters that come from Tahiti or the Volcanoes of Indonesia. Just think about the effort of transporting all that! Even locally sourced natural spring water has to be transported somewhere.

And the bottom line is that for most people there is an equivalent product in the taps in our homes. Virtually free. And in most cases it tastes virtually the same.

On those occasions when you do need to carry water, or get it when you are not at home, a reusable water bottle is the best idea. Many shops or cafes will refill for free, there are sources of drinking water in some cities, and airports usually have a machine or water fountain to refill a bottle.

We do know that the supply of clean drinking water has huge health benefits around the world, and if you are in a place where tap water is not safe to drink then bottled water is the best thing. But if you can avoid it for every day use, you will not only save money yourself but contribute to saving some of the estimated 400 billion litres of bottled water that are consumed every year. 

This 400 billion litres is estimated to cause about 160 million tonnes of C02 emissions every year. Most of it is unnecessary. Let’s try to save some.