Is This the End of Bottled Water?

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The recession and the green movement are forces that crisscross and team up in many ways. Goods that are disposable or used briefly before heading to landfills are not cool—because they’re both expensive and environmentally unfriendly. Hybrid cars are attractive because you save on gas in the course of decreasing your impact on Mother Nature. Then there’s bottled water—especially the fancy sort of H2O that is shipped around the globe to be drunk by folks who have perfectly good tap water flowing freely in their homes.

Drinking bottled water was once a hot trend, part of vast health craze. Today, it’s far more trendy—and far healthier, at least for the environment—if you drink out of a reusable container. There’s also something rather silly, especially in light of the recession, about paying for something that most people can get for free.

A recent WSJ story discusses how uncool bottled water has become:

The recession may be finishing what environmentalists started a few years ago: the end of the bottled-water fad. Twice in the past week I have been in restaurants that just a year ago would have been pushing still or sparkling water at their patrons from the moment they sat down. This time the waiters said merely: “Tap water OK?” When low-margin businesses like restaurants start passing on juicy profit centers—in this case, the chance to charge premium prices for a cheap commodity—you know something dramatic has happened. The rise and fall of bottled water may be the best case study yet in the strange politics of trendy environmental causes.

Environmentalists overseas have gone beyond simply giving dirty looks to bottled water drinkers. A town in Australia even banned the sale of bottled water.

On problem with bottled water is that it is oftentimes no better than tap. It is also difficult to figure out where the water comes from, or how it was treated. The labels on bottled water are completely useless, revealing the obvious: That there are 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g protein, 0mg of sodium, and so on contained in each bottle. Why have labels at all on bottled water? They reveal zero details to help the consumer make an informed decision.

There’s also the cost factor. Money-saving expert Greg Karp, who participated in our “What Will a Cheapskate Spend Good Money On” series, never buys bottled water. Why As Greg says rather dryly (dryly, get it?), “Note: This is a beverage that falls from the sky for free.”

All this factors in to why sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years.

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