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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

The story behind bottled water

Bottled water

Credit: iStockphoto

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Long-time readers will remember that our first G Challenge back in 2008 was to give up bottled water for a month. Since then, popular opinion has shifted quite a lot: there's still plenty of people guzzling from disposable bottles, but there's a lot more people thinking about it than there used to be.

You might have seen Annie Leonard's cute video "The Story of Bottled Water" on YouTube. In it, she covers a lot of the factors that we did when we did our challenge. How bottled water doesn't win in taste tests, how much waste it creates, how many resources go into making it and shipping it when we've got nearly-free water coming right out of our taps.

As she points out, the desire for bottled water is part of a manufactured demand. We used to get by just fine without it. Noone in the 80s was dropping dead of dehydration while out shopping; yet people in other countries couldn't even get safe tap water. Imagine if all that corporate effort had gone into fixing a real problem instead of pretending there was a new one.

I'm all for progress, and there's a number of convenient inventions I'll defend to the death: indoor plumbing, mobile phone and computers have made our lives better in spite of the issues they present. But bottled water is not one of them - the soft-drink makers are relying on scaring us or shaming us into avoiding tap water, because it's more profitable for them. I don't feel like I've got any obligation to help their shareholders though, and certainly not at the expense of the environment.

If you know someone who complains about the cost of bottled water, but keeps spending money on it, or someone who is worried about chemicals leaching into their water, but keeps buying the bottled stuff, or someone who just seems like they're ready to let bottled water go.. pass on this video to them, and let them know they can get reuseable bottles cheaply from just about any shop.