You have every right to be worried if our habit of drinking from throw-away bottles is good for the environment. Those bottles have to be filled, they have to be shipped, and sometimes they come from across the ocean - that all takes energy. And then the bottle just gets thrown away! You take a walk at your street, or you go to the beach… and what do you see collecting there on the coast? Bottles.
Even Churchill complained about the bottle invasion in his speech: “We shall find them on the seas and oceans, we shall find them on the beaches…on the fields and streets…”. Uhhhhh….okay, that’s not true(!), but the fact is, you will find lots of plastic bottles in all of those places. And it’s too much.
It’s obvious, though, we NEED to drink good quality water, but we don’t need to drink good water AND damage the environment, too.
Let’s take a look at your options to stay healthy and leave the world healthy, too.
The Top Environmentally-Friendly Water Bottler is….You!
Yes, YOU have beat out every top multinational food and beverage company for the most environmentally friendly bottled water, and you’ve done it by turning on your tap and using a reusable water bottle.
Well done!! (Permission to feel smug granted).
There isn’t any bottled water with less environmental cost than your own reusable one, so congratulations on beating out all those highly paid company execs working on more complicated solutions.
That being said, we think that one or two of the solutions we list below could be just as environmentally friendly. Maybe it just needs a bigger rollout....
What to Consider When Buying Bottled Water
How Sustainable Is The Water Source?
We didn’t pick any bottled water brands to single out here, because most water brands use a small portion of a large water source. They don’t want to run out of water.
Some companies do try and take more than their fair share, but all-in-all most use sustainable sources.
How Local Is Your Water?
Transportation makes up a big part of the environmental cost of your bottled water. Larger operations may get water from several different sources, transport it to a bottling plant, and transport the bottles to your corner store. That’s a lot of transport.
And then there are the brands that ship water from across the planet’s biggest oceans. We are looking at you, Evian and Fiji! Iit’s hard to ignore these two brands because they are some of the most recognizable water brands. It’s great that they offer a good quality water, but they won’t show up on our lists because the water source has to be more local than that.
In short: Look local!
What Materials Are In The Bottle? Is PET better than Aluminum?
This is a big question, and to be honest, there isn’t an easy answer.
Aluminum has a lot of environmental costs to first get made, but the recycling costs after that are very low. It has an advantage, too, that right now more of it gets recycled than the plastic alternatives.
We think PET plastic might be better than aluminum in theory because it can be recycled indefinitely AND you don’t have as many environmental costs to first get it produced. But sadly, it doesn’t get recycled indefinitely. The current recycling programs aren’t that efficient in the U.S.A. to reuse those bottles.
That being said - you have to check your own region or city. Some areas do have a good program for PET. When more people recycle, the program becomes more effective. So do your part!
TetraPak or Container water boxes are an option, too. They have the advantage of being mostly paper based, with some aluminum and plastic. But has the same problem as PET: the recycling program isn’t built up in the U.S. yet to really use the potential of the product.
Why Don’t The Big Multi-Nationals Just Switch To 100% Recycled Plasic?
First off, it’s more expensive. Still, if the slight increase in overall costs were the only factor, companies might just switch because of the good PR.
Part of the problem is also getting enough supply of the PET to use in the bottles. Less than 30% of bottles are recycled in the U.S.A., so that’s already a problem. Add to that, most PET currently gets recycled into fibers for other products, not into bottles.
Right now, the big bottled water companies have introduced a percentage of recycled plastics in their bottles, and they are promising to do more in the future.
List of Environmentally Friendly Bottled Waters
Let’s get to this list! Like we said, you are always the bottler of the most environmentally friendly water, but here are some alternatives that you can find at your corner store:
5. Top Boxed Water is “Just Water”
Just to be clear, there are other boxed waters that we could have picked. We liked a few companies that use TetraPak or boxes for their water, and uses water sourced from the U.S.A. That means that they are thinking about minimizing transportation and looking at recyclable materials.
Just Water boxes have 52% renewable base for their box, and the plastic that’s used is plant-based. A small percentage of the package is aluminum, and the whole thing is 100% recyclable.
Just Water is filtered spring water from two sources, one in New York State and one in Montana. They stress on their website that it’s a sustainable consumption of water from the sources. We like that they are part of a certification (B Corporation) that makes them accountable for the effects they have on people and the environment, because we think they are more likely to stay sustainable in the future.
We see two negatives with boxed water in general. These negatives don’t detract from its potential, but mean it might need some time to see if boxed water really takes off. First off, we personally prefer drinking from a bottle rather than a box - how do you feel about the difference? This might affect how popular boxed water gets.
More importantly to its environmental impact, it’s currently not possible to recycle TetraPaks and these type of containers everywhere in the U.S. If your area does have a recycling program for this, Just Water could be your best choice!
4. Top Aluminum Canned Water is “Right Water”
Aluminum has environmental pluses and minuses, but the fact is, aluminum is 100% recyclable pretty much everywhere right here and now. Other alternatives aren’t.
Right Water cans start with 70% recycled aluminum from the start. Their water seems to be of good quality, it’s spring water from three sources in California. In other words, this is water from American home soil, and hasn’t been shipped around the world. The packaging is recyclable, so we’ll call Right Water a winner!
3. The Top Glass Bottle Water is “The Mountain Valley Spring Water”
Costs for glass recycling are higher than for PET, but like aluminum, we think that glass still has its place as an alternative right now, since you can recycle it everywhere in the U.S.
The Mountain Valley Spring Water gives you spring water from the Ouachita Mountains, and it looks like a good quality water.
They also claim on their website that they are the only company where you can buy 5 gallon glass bottles, which cuts down on material use.
If glass will continue to be an environmental alternative, we aren’t sure. It would be great if companies offered local waters in glass bottles that didn’t get recycled, but cleaned and reused.
2. Top PET Bottle is “ZenWTR”
They buy garbage from the ocean and continue its life by recycling it: Now that’s a statement!
We are giving ZenWTR a pretty high spot on our list because they are doing something no other company is doing - they have bottles of 100% recycled plastic from bottles collected out of the ocean!
We gave it a high spot just for that reason, it’s embarrassing that our garbage is ending up in the middle of the ocean, and ZenWTR is addressing exactly that issue.
However, we do have two reservations about ZenWTR water.
First, it may not be a water that everyone likes. They use electrolysis to create a fairly alkaline water.
Second - and more importantly - we couldn’t find where they sourced their water from anywhere on their website. This lack of transparency doesn’t go well with a company that is trying to do something ethically good for the environment.
ZenWTR lists the different ways they treat their water, and those treatments suggest that they are buying their from municipal water sources. We don’t care if they do, because many municipalities have very good sources of water. But if the company really is as ethical as their image, they should mention the source on their website.
We still gave it a high spot, because the ocean is full of discarded bottles. You can make a little difference by buying a ZenWTR bottle!
1.Top Environmentally Friendly Bottled Water is “Richard’s Rainwater”
In our other picks, you’ll have noticed we mentioned a lot of caveats, because there is no ‘perfect’ solution to an environmentally-friendly bottled water. But we think Richard’s Rainwater has one of the best ideas out there!
Richard’s Rainwater is actual rainwater collected at local stations! That means that, theoretically, every area can bottle its own rainwater, which is a truly local source! That cuts down on most of the transportation costs.
Second, rainwater starts off fairly pure, and doesn’t need as much purification as some sources of water. This is a factor because waters that get purified with osmosis apparently use as much water for this process as ends up in the bottles. Rainwater doesn’t need that step, though.
We think Richard’s Rainwater is a great example that the future of bottled water can be very local! Probably rainwater will NOT be all of our bottled water in the future, but it may be one of the first solutions to make bottled water truly local. It’s leading the way.
We think Richard’s Rainwater deserves a spot in number one!
We didn’t take a stand on the best material for your water bottles, but if PET recycling programs improve, we think this may be the most common solution.
We loved Richard’s Rainwater as a locally sourced water that you can get right now - bottled water should be pure and local, and that’s the potential of this company!