Greenwashing with bottled water.


Jun 06, 2008

Bottled Water redux


Last year I posted on this blog about bottled water.  You can read this by clicking here.  I described a particular phenomena that I find absolutely horrifying.  The so-called Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.  The Patch is a huge mass of plastic crap that is circulating permanently in a natural current called the Pacific Gyre.  It is visible from space and twice the size of Texas, maybe larger.


The gyre captures garbage that finds its way to the ocean. Once in the gyre, garbage can remain “in circulation” for decades.  After awhile the sun breaks down some of this plastic and after many, many years these particles disappear from view.  However, additional garbage is introduced into this system at a higher rate than it disintegrates, so the situation is growing even worse with time.    




Fortunately, a lot of people are now aware of the problem and many are taking steps to help curb their waste.  Reducing the use of disposable plastic bags and plastic bottles is one way they do this.


Water bottlers are not blind to this fact–not the gyre, but the fact that their customers are growing more mindful of protecting their environment from litter and waste.  


To counteract this trend some bottlers have tried to recast their products as environmentally sound:  greenwashing.  


Fiji water recently ran an ad that did just this.  Fiji claimed that because of other eco-activities it sponsors, like rainforest protection and renewable energy initiatives, the negative impact of its water bottling operation is not only mitigated, it is totally eliminated.  Furthermore, the company claims to be not just “carbon-neutral, but “carbon negative”. This means that Fiji’s business actually improves the environment.  The more it produces the better the environment gets. 


Logic of this type, where claims are made that ongoing environmental damage can be offset by other pro-environmental activities, is misguided and never addresses the root issue.  Only by switching away from the bottles, using municipal water supplies, or filtering at home, and transporting water in reusable bottles if necessary, can the problem of environmental damage caused by unnecessary plastic production, transportation and disposal ever be solved.  Of course, this fact is not one that Fiji wants to acknowledge.


Think about it like this:  If you burnt down a forest could you claim that the damage you caused is cancelled out by the fact that you do not produce any plastic bottles?  Of course not.     


Anyway, perhaps you will find this article and discussion interesting and useful in defining your own environmental positions.   I also welcome any thoughts you may have around these developments. 


Eric Perkunder 



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