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Natural Resources Defense Council

When someone asks if you want bottled or tap water, which do you choose?

It seems like an innocuous decision — just a matter of preference. But there's actually a lot riding on that choice, according to " The Story of Bottled Water," an eight-minute video that's drawn millions of views since it was posted in 2010.


Images by Raphael Schön/Flickr and Olli Niemitalo/Wikimedia Commons.

A 2008 Nestlé advertisement in Canada infamously read, "Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world."

The bold claim by the world's largest bottled water company drew the ire of environmentalists across Canada. Nestlé never proved the claim, but they sent it to print, so it must have been true, right?

Well, as "The Story of Bottled Water" notes, the energy in the oil it takes to make the plastic water bottles sold every year in the U.S. could fuel a million cars.

All GIFs from The Story of Stuff Project/YouTube.

The Pacific Institute, a water policy think tank, estimated that in 2006, bottled water production required 17 million barrels of oil and sent 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to record high global temperatures.

Since when was it "environmentally responsible" to burn huge volumes of fossil fuels?

But bottled water companies don't stop burning fossil fuels with production. There's also the fuel involved in shipping.

Michael Warhurst, who campaigned against bottled water with Friends of the Earth, a nonprofit conservation group, says bottled water transportation makes an already bad situation worse:

"It is another product we do not need. Bottled water companies are wasting resources and exacerbating climate change. Transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, and transporting water adds to that."

It's tough to know exactly how much fuel is used for shipping bottled water, but with the industry showing consistent growth, it's safe to bet its fuel needs are, too.

Bottled water also takes a toll on the global climate long after it quenches our thirst.

Up to 80% of empty water bottles end up in landfills, where waste decomposes over time, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. According to the EPA, landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Discarded plastic bottles that don't meet land or sea are sometimes burned in incinerators that release more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.


Bottom line: Nestlé was wrong.

There's no known statement on whether Nestlé woke up to the fallacy of their claims, but it is clear bottled water is far from "the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world." And we'd all be doing the Earth a favor by avoiding it like a planet-warming plague.

NOTE: Though we reached out to Nestlé Waters North America to see if the company's perspective has shifted on the environmental impacts of bottled water, they declined to comment and instead pointed us to their sustainability page.

    Watch "The Story of Bottled Water" to learn more:

    Want to be a part of the solution? Here are a few ways to get involved:

    1. Don't buy bottled water. Get a reusable water bottle. The savings will add up.
    2. Rally your schools, workplaces, and communities to ban bottled water and other bottled beverages.
    3. Demand that your city, state, and federal governments invest in better water and recycling infrastructure — especially when it comes to how it interacts with fossil fuels.
    4. Sign this petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to tell our world leaders to act now on climate change.

    "Thank you in advance!" — Earth

    All images provided by Bombas

    We can all be part of the giving movement

    True

    We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

    Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

    A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

    homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

    When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

    Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

    Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

    beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

    Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

    step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

    Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

    step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

    The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

    Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

    You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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