Aussie town leads war on bottles

Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 8:00 UTC 8 comments

It costs a thousand times more than a pint of water from a tap, and yet we’re obsessed with it. But an Australian town this week voted to ban bottled water from the shelves of local stores, and its hoped that this will begin a wider movement to end the sale of bottled water across those parts of the world where it has become most popular.

I have wondered before about the desire of so many to be seen drinking bottled water. Does it really taste better, or perhaps is it just that the one homogenised taste across all corners of the globe makes people feel more at home? Or is it down to marketing, to people just wanting consume another brand? I believe there might be some evidence to confirm this hypothesis.

Either way, its a brilliant business proposition; the bottles are cheap and the extraction is hardly expensive, and yet you can get away with charging so much. And with a nice label and a few TV and bus shelter ads, you can start raking it in. And when people are being told to consume something more healthy than Coke or Pepsi, surely water is the ideal direction to go in? Coca Cola and Nestle between them own most bottled water brands, so Coca Cola stands to gain in profitability if people move away from its sugar-drink brands.

But bottled drinks are one area where we really could do more for the environment by doing less. All the needless transport, all the needless energy being used. As a friend pointed out, this would have a much better effect on a shops sales-based carbon-contribution than a ban on plastic carries bags.

After all, if we truly valued safe running water, we’d demand it as a right, not pay to have it branded. Given the lengths the people of Cochabamba went to to gain control of their water sources, its a pity we feel its OK to hand them over to the likes of Coke and Nestle. Moreover, its very concerning to note that the biggest reason we couldn’t do this in Britain is that our public water fountains are, well, to be honest they’re non-existent. Which is appalling, especially as we get hotter summers and need to do more for people’s welfare.

I’d quite like to see Churches challenge people to stop drinking bottled water and give the money to charities working on water projects overseas. As it happens, my sister is working on one of these in Uganda right now, and I’m sure she’ll have a lot to say about our water usage when she returns. I just hope we in Britain can find the campaigning energy to begin getting this passed, and indeed, I’d love to see Transition Towns say something on this. Change has to start somewhere, and a small town in Australia is as good a place as any, so hopefully this is one area where it has started and will spread.


Entry filed under: Activism, Australia, Climate Change, Environment, Marketing, Materialism, Politics.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lois  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 8:41 UTC

    Rather than the churches buying in bottled water and solacing themselves that it’s ‘fairtrade’. Fairtrade water? What?

    When I’m running the cafe at church I always put out a jug of water and cups rather than bottles. The difficulty is with the music and technical teams who are told to use bottles to prevent spillages. But surely they can bring their own? I always do.

    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 9:49 UTC

      Re-usables? I’m sure St Mikes could make a viable order for branded water bottles for use by musicians and so forth (and to sell). Probably need to order about 50, which would cover all musicians and then provide a dozen or so for sales.

      Actually, what really really gets me is a certain church in Bradford (I suspect half of you know which) that has decided to get its own brand of spring water, and which advertises it on the pre-service powerpoint notices saying “All our bottled water is blessed by the management”. 1) Management? 2) Does this mean I could use it to baptise someone in the streets? 3) Anyone asked Mr God what he thinks? Grrr Argh!

  • 3. Lois  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 12:15 UTC

    Well, now you’re a staff member, (and in fact probably the relevant staff member) take it up with Mark, or someone. 😉

  • 4. Alison Parker  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 12:16 UTC

    Yes! – this is one of my personal particular issues since it’s at the point where my professional life and personal sustainability attempts meet. All your points are good! Things that also particulalry annoy me: 1. water that claims to give a donation to charity (like “one water”). Use a water fountain, donate money to charity, don’t push people further into poverty with global warming. So many shops sell stuff like this, mtryign to be ethical, but are sadly misguided. 2. public toilets only havign warm water taps, so you can’t refill bottles. This is esepcially true in airports, where even if you’re organised you can’t take your prefilled bottle through security (though, I appreciate there’s a bigger climate impact issue here…..) 3. bottled mineral water being sold miles from its bottlign plant. there;s loads of natural mineral; water available in most parts fo the world – no need to sell highland spring in cornwall, or evian in the US……

  • 5. Gloria  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 18:13 UTC

    I’m glad this important discussion is sprouting up as of late. As for the reasons why people go to bottled water, I think its a little bit of everything.

    The marketing muscle that these large transnationals use is ridiculous. Pepsi just thinks they can slap their logo on yoga mats and be “green”? (Their “au natural” campaign)

    In Italy, they’ve branded tap water with marketing efforts to make tap sexy again:

    40% of the bottled water on the market is tap water, and it’s infuriating to see large corps commoditize a natural resource that should be a human right.

    I’m active in the Think Outside the Bottle campaign run by Corporate Accountability International in Boston– you should check their campaign out, I think you would like it 🙂

  • 6. Greg  |  Tuesday, 14th July 2009 at 22:14 UTC

    church … branded … blessed … mineral water

    You WHAT?!

    I bet it’s available in truly … abundant quantities, too.

    • 7. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 15th July 2009 at 13:06 UTC

      Erm, yes, actually, it is. They get it by the pallet load as far as I could tell.

  • 8. brainduck  |  Sunday, 19th July 2009 at 19:32 UTC

    In Russia a very popular brand of bottled water has been blessed by church patriarchs for many years. It’s often not safe to drink the tap water there 😦

    BTW, having been trained to do emergency baptisms (really!) you don’t need to use holy water for them, spit will do if you are really stuck, but *not* alcohol hand gel.


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