Water Bottle Usage
Essay Preview: Water Bottle Usage
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When my group was faced with choosing a subject to do marketing research on, we wanted to produce a solution that could be implemented on our campus. We noticed that many DePaul students buy plastic water bottles every day and wanted to figure out how our university can encourage students to use refillable bottles instead. As the need to switch to environmentally-friendly options increases day by day, we believe it is the university’s duty to do their part.
Water is such an essential part of life and it is important to stay hydrated. Drinking water is a great way to stay alert and focused. It is then no surprise why so many DePaul students have a need to bring water bottles to class. Some would say the logical solution to staying hydrated would be owning a reusable water bottle- unfortunately, that is not the case for many students who chose to individual plastic bottles daily. Our first step was to perform secondary research on the topic of bottled water vs. tap water.
The largely publicly provided good of tap water, however, is under attack by the growing bottled water industry. This new commodity is winning over consumers who are willing to pay “thousands of times more per gallon than tap water, for a product that can contain more toxic substances, and uses over 1,000 times more energy to produce” (Jafffee, Newman, 2013). To add to that, consumers are largely unaware that half the bottled water sold in the U.S. today is filtered municipal tap water (Jafffee, Newman, 2013). Negative externalities also include the denigration of springs, river, and local ecosystems, which result from the large pumping operations employed by the mega corporations that pump water directly from aquifers (Jafffee, Newman, 2013). But that is not all.
The growth of this industry has not gone unchallenged. A social movement against bottled water has developed in the past decade and for good reason (Jafffee, Newman, 2013). Many efforts to stop consumption and production of bottled water have been made through awareness campaigns and outreach programs. These campaigns and outreach programs, however, fail to identify some major reasons why bottled water is so popular. Obviously the number one reason for most is because of its convenience and accessibility, but it has been recognized that often the switch to bottled water is often fear based, which leads into contamination factor. These issues cause great concern on whether or not our municipal tap water is safe and healthy to drink. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defends the safety of public water and maintains strict standards for all public drinking water (Opel, 1999). In spite of these protections, and in spite of scientific studies showing bottled water is not as safe as tap water; consumers are still turning to bottled water (Hu, Morton, Mahler, 2011). This is especially true where media coverage of drinking water problems augment peoples concern about the safety of their public supply (Anadu, Harding, 2000). The bottled water industry has monopolized on these fears by using campaigns that subtly or overtly denigrate tap water usage and alter public behavior about the bottled water option (Jafffee, Newman, 2013). Marketing plays a huge role in why people still buy water bottles rather than simply drinking tap water. People no longer see water as a common resource, but rather see it as a product. Retail expert Gary Mortimer explains how companies use words such as “pure” and “natures best” and package their products with images of nature’s water sources to convince consumers their water is different (Houseman). By increasing the public’s distrust in tap water, the bottled water industry is creating its own market. Bottled water industry has seen record profits from $10.97 billion in 2006 to $15.95 billion in 2016. In fact the industry grew from 62.3 billion gallons in 2010 to 87 billion in 2015, an increase of 6.9% (Ed, Lazich, Burton, 2016).
When looking at the bottled water industry’s consumer base. Studies have shown that lower income families consume more bottled water than higher income consumers. A study was done with 15,702 adults in the United States and evaluated consumption based on income, age, gender, and race. There was a strong effect of socioeconomic status when consuming water bottles. Those participants who had a higher level of income consumed more bottled water vs those with lower income. Lower income adults consumed 118 mL less tap water than higher income adults. Water consumption was also strongly linked to the participants age. Younger adults drank more bottled water. Non-Hispanic whites consumed the most tap water and the least bottled water. (Drewnowski, Adam, 2013).
A way to stop bottle water production, is proving that tap water is just as safe if not safer than bottled water. Consumers’ assumptions that bottled water is healthier than tap water is a strong misconception. A journal of the American Medical Association known as the Archives of Family Medicine released a study which compared 57 samples of bottled water with tap water found in Cleveland. The results found that only three bottled water samples contained fluoride levels acceptable with Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency. They also found that “Six bottled waters had bacteria counts of 1,500 to 4,900 colonies per milliliter”(Case Western Reserve University). Consumers need to be informed about the local regulations put on their tap water and understand that tap water is held to a much higher standard than bottled water .
The surge in bottled water consumption has spawned a global industry and its environmental impact is substantial. The production of water bottles includes processing the water, cleaning the water, filling the bottles, sealing the bottles, labeling them, and transporting them – consumes between 1000 and 2000 times more energy per unit than tap water, and that is equivalent to between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil annually (Jafffee, Newman, 2013).Environmentally, most of today’s bottled water is served in single-serve bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that are derived from crude oil and natural gas. This product PET “does not decompose and is now the single biggest source of plastic waste with tens of billions of bottles ending up as garbage every year” (Chellaney, 2015). Only about 20% of plastic single use bottles water bottles are recycled. There are health concerns with the use of these bottles as potential leaching of chemical compounds from the PET happens after prolonged exposure to sunlight or heat (Chellaney, 2015). Production of one liter of bottled water uses 1.6 liters of additional water, which is than contaminated and cannot be used (Chellaney, 2015). Ultimately the environmental concerns of health, eco system depletion and waste of water are significant.