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Bottled water is notoriously wasteful of freshwater resources. Did you know it takes 3 liters of freshwater just to make the single-use plastic bottle that holds 1 liter of spring or tertiary-filtered tap water?

Beyond wasting the Earth’s finite freshwater, the bottled water waste stream is one of the most notorious human-derived environmental problems. Only 1 out of every 4 of plastic water bottles are recycled. Many end up in landfills, choking streams, or in the oceans where it takes 450 years to degrade. In the meantime, that plastic leaches toxins into our drinking water and ocean water and as the pieces become progressively smaller, they are seen as food and end up in the stomachs of birds, fish, and mammals. This happens even with “conscious” Naya water bottles that are made from 100% recycled plastic!

Bottled water is not sustainable.

Think plastic beach (thank you Gorillaz), Native American children in the Southwest standing around their bone-dry wells, and scores of dying Albatross as they try to feed their young regurgitated plastic bits from the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Today on World Water Day I can’t help thinking about the bottled water campaigns that are launched in honor of the global water crisis and access to potable water for people in third world countries.

Buying wasteful bottled water to provide others with potable water is counter-intuitive, however.

While working on Water, as Seen from the Moon, my article about the recent spike in global water crisis campaigns with celebrity involvement like Matt Damon, Queen Latifah, and Guy Laliberte published this month, I also spoke with Starbucks about its sale of Ethos brand water and reached out to Volvic’s “Drink 1 Give 10” campaign managers.

While Volvic didn’t respond when asked about the conundrum of purchasing wasteful bottled water to support its safe water access campaign, Starbucks did. Purchase of Ethos bottled water includes a 5 cent donation to provide access to potable water in third world countries. Partners include PepsiCo and Water.org.

Starbucks said its Ethos’ water sources are two “private, sustainable springs…not sources of community water.”

“We are aware of the environmental sensitivities of selling bottled water to meet our customer requests for a convenient source of portable water,” strive to reduce the bottle footprint, and provide free filtered water for customers with their own containers, said Amy Anderson, communications program manager Global Public Affairs for the Starbucks Coffee Company.

“We also sell reusable water bottles,” she added.

So if you are at Starbucks, bring in your BPA-free plastic or stainless steel water bottle and ask for quality potable water–the kind that those in third world countries fantasize about–and make a $1 donation to the Ethos Water Fund.

And if you really think bottled water is healthier and safer, think again. Potable water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and bottled water by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Big, big difference.

For more information about global water crisis campaigns by Cover Girl, Matt Damon’s Water.org, and OneDrop.org, read my article, Water, as Seen from the Moon.

To learn about the safety of bottled water, Reader’s Digest published the extremely informative expose, Bottled Water vs. Tap Water, in early 2008. For more on freshwater, global scarcity, and the environmental impacts of the various uses of water (including the bottled water industry), check out the American Museum of Natural History’s H2O: Water = Life and click on “Healthy Water, Healthy Lives.”

The Gorillaz new album, Plastic Beach, which is packaged in cardboard instead of a plastic case, features Snoop Dog, techno beats, and the amazing Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

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