The legendary conservationist John Muir, a true champion of environmental stewardship, founded the Sierra Club in 1892. One can imagine Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt on their famous camping trip together in the Sierra Nevadas, dipping their palms into the cool natural water from springs that are abundant in the mountain range to quench their thirsts.
It is interesting to note that 72 years before Muir established the Sierra Club, people also thirsty for clean, natural spring water began bottling it in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1820. In Poland Springs, Maine, bottled water began to be produced in 1845. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, Mountain Valley Spring Water began bottling operations in 1871. In 1862, Calistoga Springs at the base of Mount Saint Helena in the Napa Valley opened and by 1880, poet Robert Louis Stevenson was writing about the power and beauty of the waters there.
These natural spring sources remain pristine and commercially viable to this day and are outstanding examples of sound and continuous environmental stewardship by the bottled water industry. It’s true than millions of Americans cannot cup their hands and dip into springs for a refreshing taste of water in its natural state at the source, but this being the 21st Century, we’ve found sanitary and efficient ways to bring it to them in a bottle. By any measure, bottled water companies are very much natural allies of the Sierra Club and other environmental group, and we their members to consider working with us on comprehensive, science-based and equitable environmental resource management proposals and/or assist us in promoting new and expanded recycling initiatives, such as single-stream curbside recycling programs. Such a partnership would truly benefit the public at large. They could enjoy the best of our natural resources while feeling confident that they have taken action to actively protect the environment.
Any effort to reduce the environmental impact of packaging must focus on all consumer goods and not target any one industry. The light-weight PET plastic containers used for bottled water make up only one- third of 1 percent of the U.S. waste stream. Meanwhile, the remaining 99.66 percent of America’s waste material, from other plastic containers to newspapers to baby diapers will require the assistance of industry and activists to recycle and guide post-consumer waste to utilitarian re-use. Visit any supermarket you choose; every consumer product in every aisle needs to be recycled. It’s a big job; national in scope.
In addition to the sale of small package bottled water in retail locations, the traditional delivery of fresh, bottled drinking water to the doorsteps of business and home consumers continues today with bottled water’s Home and Office (HOD) delivery sector. The 3- and 5- gallon bottled water containers are used, sanitized and reused up to 40 times before they are recycled, enabling bottlers to live up to their moniker “the original recyclers.”
Today, the well-being and comfort of society as a whole is based on the availability of clean, safe, abundant municipal water. Contrary to statements made by some environmental activists, IBWA members are not “anti-tap water.” We don’t think the issue is “bottled water verses tap water.” It’s healthy to drink clean water, be it from a bottle or the tap. Bottled water companies use municipal water in all their production facilities and some bottled water products, which are then purified to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards and definitions for bottled water from municipal water systems.
Please feel free to republish this article, however we ask that the following statement be included in the reprint: Published with permission from the Bottle Water Reporter, August/September 2008.
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