It’s Hip to Drink Tap: 7 Reasons to Give up the One-Time Use Bottle

I try not to eco-judge people. But recently, I’ve been silently judging people at the grocery store with cases of water at the bottom of their cart. And there are a few friends of mine who I’ve thought about lecturing, but I don’t because I know there is no better way to turn someone off than to lecture.

Still, if one of my friends asked me about my views on bottled water, I’d be happy to tell them they should stop buying them. Here’s why.

  1. Bottled water costs a ridiculous amount of money. According to Food & Water Watch,Β  the national average cost for a gallon of tap water in the U.S. is .002 cents. The national average cost for a gallon of bottled water is anywhere from .89 cents to $8.26 per gallon.
    Even at it’s least expensive, bottled water is 224% more expensive than tap. I can’t think of a single other item the average American would pay 224% more for when it was unnecessary, can you?
  2. The quality of bottled water is rarely any better than the quality of most tap water. In fact, a report released from the Environmental Working Group found an average of 8 toxic contaminants in each of the ten brands of bottled water it tested.
  3. The environmental impact of creating plastic bottles is immense. There are varying statistics on the exact impact, but Food and Water Watch estimates that it takes 47 million barrels of oil to make the plastic bottles necessary for all the bottled water Americans drink. It also uses about 5 times the amount of water in the bottle to create the bottle.
  4. The environmental impact of shipping the bottled water is also immense. Water from the U.S. is bottled and shipped all over the world. Water from other parts of the world is bottled and shipped to the U.S. It causes a lot of pollution and uses a lot of fuel.
  5. A very small percentage of plastic water bottles ever get recycled. According to the Container Recycling Institute “more than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year.”
    I recently received an e-mail from a representative of International Bottled Water Association trying to convince me to stop writing about the problems with bottled water. In it, the representative said that plastic bottles only account for 1/3 of 1% of all the trash in landfills, and eliminating that wouldn’t help the environment much. So in my mind, I picture all of the trash in the world separated into 300 equal piles. One of those piles is made of up solely of plastic bottles. I’m picturing an enormous pile, that if eliminated would probably help the environmental a good deal.
  6. Drinking tap water can help break the use it once and dispose of it mind set. We have a very disposable society. Taking care of things and reusing them takes effort. It’s easy to grab a bottle of water, drink it, and then throw it in the trash. It’s hard to grab a glass or reusable bottle, fill it with water, drink it and then wash it. Oh, wait, that’s not hard at all. Up until about 20 years ago people did it all the time and it didn’t ruin their lives at all. Starting with breaking the disposable bottled water habit can help lead to breaking the disposable plate habit and the disposable napkin habit and the disposable…. habit.
  7. Reusable bottles are hip (just take a look at this Make Love Not Landfill Sigg bottle). Trust me when I tell you that I’m not the only silently judging you when you have bottled water in your hand. You want to be hip, right?

Okay, so maybe #7 isn’t the most compelling reason to drink tap water, but #’s 1-6 should be. You don’t really need the hip reusable bottle to drink tap water. Just drinking tap water will make you hip. A glass works just fine and so does an inexpensive reusable #5 plastic water bottle that can be purchased for $3-$4 at the grocery store. While some people stay away from plastic altogether, the #5’s are generally considered the safest of all the plastic and as long as they are taken care of properly, not left out in the sun, and not put in the microwave, there is little danger in them.

Why not choose to be hip for just one week? Make a commitment to not buy or drink bottled water for just 7 days and see how it goes.

Image courtesy of flickr.

  1. ethnicomm

    I wish you had posted this before my post for Financial Advisors on cutting costs. All I said was “Skip the bottled water – tap water is perfectly fine and much more environmentally friendly.” Would have been better to just link to your post instead.

  2. Chris Rich

    Bottled water is only slightly less ridiculous than those souvenir cans of “Fresh Maine Air” one once found on road trips to Acadia National Park. But, they, at least, were joking.

    If nothing else, bottled water should be included in all deposit programs in states that have returnable beverage fees.

    Here in Cambridge it would make the hapless ‘untouchable’ class of returnable bottle gatherers very happy and one of my regular bottle guys keeps a keen eye on legislative moves toward expanding the number of bottles that are applicable for a 5 cent deposit.

    In my neighborhood there are more than 10 bottle gatherers who roam the area with modified shopping carts gathering beverage cans and bottles with surprising efficiency.

    Monetizing the litter would give it a value and generate a fund to cover it’s ride down the waste stream.

  3. Ben

    I’ve made the switch, but can understand the reservations of some who don’t trust their municipalities to provide them with clean water, devoid of chemical additives. While bottled water is a ludicrous investment, isn’t it still naive to think tap water is a safe alternative.

    That being said, I’d like to see a comparison of water filter technologies, that could clear up the confusion. What would you suggest? It’s kind of ironic that even the pitcher types are made of plastic, and while it is used for longer periods of time, it does nothing to eliminate petroleum dependence or chemical leaching risks.

  4. Electric Bike Guy

    I’ve been drinking straight tap water for most of my life. For a while I used those filter pitchers that have the carbon filters in them but I even stopped using those. The plain and simple of it is, *most* municipal water systems are as good, if not better than the water that comes in those bottles.

    Remember you inner child, you know the one that used to drink straight from the hose after a energetic day of playing. Remember how the hose water was the best water there was? I do.

    Tap water isn’t bad.


  5. Magdalena

    I would love to drink tap water if it would be possible. Tap water in Warsaw is so horrible that even when boiled the taste of a pure water is awful.

  6. Robin Shreeves


    Sometimes when I’m posting I forget I have an international audience. Of course, if your tap water is undrinkable, its important to find a drinkable source. Do you at least have the ability to recycle the bottles your water comes in?

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