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What’s the True Environmental Cost of Fiji Water?

| Monday February 5th, 2007 | 64 Comments

fiji water.jpgED Note: This is the original “Ask Pablo” column which set off enormous hullabaloo about the “cost” of bottled water. This post was picked up by media organizations far and wide and even by the Fiji water company themselves, who have since taken some interesting steps. Please read it with that historical context in mind!

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This week’s AskPablo comes from Maryline: “I am interested to know the ‘true-cost’ of a bottle of Fiji water that currently sells for $1.50 in the United States. David Lazarus wrote a report on the water business in the SF Chronicle and studied the success of Fiji (January 21 edition), where ‘distance and exoticism are marketed as advantages.’ Fiji is now # 2 in premium bottled water, behind Evian where we have the same transportation issue. An environmental absurdity!”

Please note: Due to overwhelming reader interest in this topic some of the assumptions made in this column have been adjusted. Numerous readers were kind enough to provide more accurate values for some of my previous assumptions.


I agree! I once heard Julia “Butterfly” Hill (everyone’s favorite tree-sitting sweetheart) say that it pollutes several times more water to make the plastic bottle than it actually holds. We might as well put that myth to the test while we’re at it. Where do we begin? Well, I doubt that Fiji has a booming plastics industry so they probably get the bottles in the form of “Blanks” from China, which are then expanded to their final size and shaped by a process called “stretch blow molding.” The total mass of the empty 1 liter bottle is probably around 0.025kg (25g) and it is made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) Plastics of this type use around 6.45kg of oil per kg, 294.2kg of water per kg, and result in 3.723kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg. So, with a quick check (200kg/kg x 0.025kg = 5kg of water) we find that Butterfly is indeed correct. Based on my calculations a bottle that holds 1 liter requires 5 liters of water in its manufacturing process (this includes power plant cooling water).

Let’s take a look at the transportation aspect to see what the total ecological impact of an imported bottle of water might be. A container vessel uses 9g of fuel per tkm (that’s metric tons carried x distance traveled), 80g of water per tkm, and releases 17g of GHGs per tkm. The distance from China to Fiji is 8,000km, which gives us exactly 0.25tkm ( (0.025kg / 1t/1000kg) x 8,000km = 1.0tkm). So, 2.3g of fossil fuels, 20g of water, and 4.3g of GHGs per bottle delivered to Fiji from China.

Now let’s look at the trip to the US. The distance from Fiji to San Francisco is 8,700km. But this time the bottles will be full, so they will have a mass of 1.025kg each. This gives us a much larger value of 9.8tkm ( (1.025kg / 1t/1000kg) x 8,700km = 8.9tkm) which I will round up to 9tkm. So, 81g of fossil fuels, 720g of water, and 153g of GHGs per bottle delivered to the US from Fiji.

Since the fossil fuels end up being accounted for in the GHG emissions I’ll ignore those values for now. The total amount of water used to produce and deliver one bottle of imported water is 6.74kg (5kg + 20g + 1kg + 720g)! And the amount of GHGs released amount to 250g (93g + 4.3g + 153g), or 0.25kg, or 0.00025 tons. If you wanted to offset your annual imported water habit (are you eco-chic Hollywood types listening?) with DriveNeutral it would cost you $0.68 (0.00025 tons/day x 365 days/year x $7.50/ton).

But how much does it cost to deliver the water from halfway around the world? Let’s assume that the cost of transportation is based on our fossil fuel use assumptions above and that the bottle producer and the shipping company charge double their material cost. I am not sure if these are valid assumptions, but they are just assumptions after all… So, 160g of fossil fuels to make the bottle, 2g to deliver it to Fiji, and 81g to deliver the full bottle to the US. From economics we learn that fixed costs (equipment, etc.) in high-volume production are negligible in the long run so it is pretty safe to assume that the cost of making and delivering the bottled water is linked to its variable cost. In this case the variable cost is the fossil fuel (since the water comes out of the ground for free), which amounts to 0.243 kg. A standard oil barrel holds 159 liters and one liter of oil weighs 850g/liter, so one barrel holds 135.15kg of oil. One barrel costs between $50 and $70 (let’s say $60, depending on OPEC’s mood and other factors), so 0.243kg would cost $0.11 (1 barrel/135.15kg x $60/barrel x 0.243kg). And applying our earlier mark-up assumption, the cost to produce and deliver a bottle of imported water is $0.22, leaving $1.28 per bottle profit for the manufacturer and the retail store.

I hope that answers your question Maryline!

Pablo Päster, MBA
Sustainability Engineer

www.AskPablo.org
Pablo(dot)Paster(at)gmail(dot)com

10/22/07 – Comments were turned off due to excessive spamming, sorry…


▼▼▼      64 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • DaveG

    Awesome post, thanks Pablo

  • Jiltedcitizen

    Interesting, but it seems like comparing the water used ratio is skewed. How much of the water used is recycled and used again? Cooling water, ideally, for power plants is near the same temperature it was taken and otherwise unchanged. How can you count that?
    Now for a real comparison, how much water and energy is used when getting water from the tap? Everything from drilling the wells, treating the water and delivering it. There will be a large difference I’d assume between city water and personal wells. Maybe include a RO unit so the end result is almost pure water.

  • Anonymous

    The bottles are marked “Fiji” on the bottom, and the claim on the bottle is that it is a “Product of Fiji” – and they’re PET 1 bottles.
    My question is just how much damage is being done to the aquafer and exactly who is making the money off this.

  • Jay

    I agree with Jiltedcitizen, I wonder how much it costs for water to come from the tap.

  • RealisticConsumer

    You quack. Your calculations are for a single bottle. Divide that by how many thousands (or tens of thousands) of bottles are made, filled, and shipped.
    Honestly, I’m surprised you don’t drink it.

  • Michael

    RealisticConsumer: Do you work for Fiji or are you just a troll? Your comment is utterly and totally incorrect.

  • ConsumersAreAlwaysRight

    Yeah you quack. You can’t just look at one bottle, you have to ship thousands (or tens of thousands) of liters of water halfway around the world.
    Duh, you idiot. You save money and the environment by shipping more water, cause of the bulk discount. You can’t compare just one bottle. We should bottle up all of the aquifer on one half of the Earth and ship it in containers to the other half of the Earth. And then ship little pieces of cut up trees back to replace the water.

  • n/a

    Not to mention that most bottled water is more expensive than gasoline by the liter.

  • Nick Aster

    Yikes, I guess some of you commenters really like Fiji Bottled water. No one’s telling you what to drink here, only a little about the environmental externalities of doing so. Please don’t be abusive or I’ll turn on comment monitoring.

  • Anonymous

    There are a lot of assumptions in those calculations and I think, a lot of flaws. Compare against tap water, or a locally produced bottled water and see what the numbers come up with. Do I pay the premium for Figi water? No, that would be dumb. Do I drink the sludge that comes out my New York City tap? No, that would also be dumb.

  • Kato

    Actually NYC tap water is pretty good! You must have lousy plumbing in your building.

  • Anonymous

    To Anonymous at 10:22AM:
    Apparently you can’t even spell Fiji right. Did you even read the entire article?

  • Anonymous

    Pablo,
    Your agruements are not based in fact, which is unfortunate because you do such a fine job of playing on the emotions of those who oppose “exotic” (which should be replaced with the word imported) bottled water.
    First off, the water used in creating the plastic (pet by the way) is not the naturally occuring water found in the veti levu acquifer. This is an unfair comparison, as one could use non potable water for manufacturing of plastic. Fiji probably pays between .30 to .40 per bottle AND label…with most of the cost in the cap believe it or not.
    Second, not only do you unerestimate the raw cost of shipping, you missed several “transport costs.” These include insurance, FDA compliance, customs entry, tariffs, brokerage fees, terminal handling fess and carriage charges…to name some of them. Lastly, you do account for inland freight charges, namely movement from the port to the warehouse facility.
    Finally, within the more like .50 mark up, distributors must then warehouse the product, pay a sales force to sell it, factor a transpot cost to move it to retail and leave enough meat on the bone to entice retail to carry the brand.
    Bottom line, water, even imported water, is BY FAR the least protiable segment of the beverage industry.
    -Former imported water executive, IBWA award-winning marketer.
    For more information, visit aquamaestro.com

  • Geno

    Pablo,
    Your agruements are not based in fact, which is unfortunate because you do such a fine job of playing on the emotions of those who oppose “exotic” (which should be replaced with the word imported) bottled water.
    First off, the water used in creating the plastic (pet by the way) is not the naturally occuring water found in the veti levu acquifer. This is an unfair comparison, as one could use non potable water for manufacturing of plastic. Fiji probably pays between .30 to .40 per bottle AND label…with most of the cost in the cap believe it or not.
    Second, not only do you unerestimate the raw cost of shipping, you missed several “transport costs.” These include insurance, FDA compliance, customs entry, tariffs, brokerage fees, terminal handling fess and carriage charges…to name some of them. Lastly, you do account for inland freight charges, namely movement from the port to the warehouse facility.
    Finally, within the more like .50 mark up, distributors must then warehouse the product, pay a sales force to sell it, factor a transpot cost to move it to retail and leave enough meat on the bone to entice retail to carry the brand.
    Bottom line, water, even imported water, is BY FAR the least protiable segment of the beverage industry.
    -Former imported water executive, IBWA award-winning marketer.
    For more information, visit aquamaestro.com

  • Puppsie Cahte

    Ha! Aquamaestro – sometimes I wish I were unscrupulous enough to sell air to people. Obviously you have no qualms. Have a nice day!

  • http://www.AskPablo.org Pablo

    Wow,the responses to this post have been overwhelming. Thank you all for contributing (well, most of you) to this debate. I have a few responses to some comments that were made:
    Yes, this calculation is for one bottle, because that is what was asked by Maryline. If you happen to have Fiji’s annual US sales data in front of you you can easily figure out what the big picture impact of their business is.
    NYC water actually comes from one of the most protected watersheds in the US and is of very high quality. If you have had bad water in NYC you were probably drinking hotel tap water which is run through a water softening system, or you were in a building that had old pipes…
    Some of you have pointed out an interesting problem in material intensity analysis. What does it mean to “use” water? Very few processes actually “use” or change the chemical structure of water. Water that is turned into steam will fall as rain, polluted water can be filtered, etc. I am simply showing how much water is used, not saying that this water is being polluted or locked away from future use, and I do acknowledge that a large percentage of it is used in cooling power plants. This process may heat the water by a few degrees but, for the most part, causes no other long term impact on that water. Carbon emissions, on the other hand, are much easier to deal with since they are created by a combustion process and accumulate in the atmosphere.
    Geno, thanks for adding some real world experience to the discussion. I want to make it clear that this week’s column is not the result of an exhaustive study, not by a long shot. It was intended to show that big questions can be evaluated with quick back-of-the-envelope calculations based on available information and reasonable assumptions. While I am saddened by some of the negative comments that I have received this week I encourage people to critique, comment, and offer better assumptions. I don’t have all the answers, but with the assistance of helpful readers we can collectively move the conversation forward.

  • http://themostboringbloginthe.wordpress.com therealdonquixote

    To All,
    You are all HYPOCRITES!! ALL OF YOU!!!
    How much pollution does that PC your typing on generate; including manufacturing, actual use and then chucking it in the bin after 3 years? How about those lights you’re using to read with? How about every shite you take?
    You all demonize “Fiji” bottled water because its a big easy target, liked Michael Jackson at a rep concert. Note, I’m not saying I’m retarded enough to PAY for bottled water myself, in fact just the opposite. However, you people are just ganging up on ONE stupid consumer product, when the real problem is that just by getting along day to day as a human is the greatest danger to the planets ecosystem.
    If you really want to make the world, and the internet, less full of pollution, you should off yourselves and save the planet.
    Love,
    Your Friendly Elf
    therealdonquixote

  • http://blog.jamesrbritton.com James Britton

    I call for a boycott on bottled water. Great post!

  • Anonymous

    Fiji produces their PET bottles on-site (takes about 2 minutes of looking around their website to find that info). What they don’t say is if they also produce the pre-forms on site, or if they use an outside injection plant. Either way, you have already started assuming things that could have been verified in a matter of minutes.
    In addition, 1 liter bottles rarely, if ever, weigh 125g. Uncapped, you are looking at somewhere between 30g and 40g. Again, a quick phone call or e-mail would have netted you some realistic numbers to work with.
    Should I go on, or do you get the point?
    You took the easy route and ended up with completely unrealistic numbers which you try to pass off as fact. Ever wonder why people call you a quack? Now you know.

  • anon

    Just a thought: I’m guessing Fiji consumes a lot of manufactured goods from the US and other developed countries. So there’ll be ships going from the US to Fiji full of these goods. Can they go back empty? No, they need at least some ballast for stability. So why not load Fiji water bottles instead of ballast? Doesn’t do much extra damage to the environment, does it?

  • Anon

    You fools, they actually fill those bottle’s in the US of A and sell it as Fiji water.
    Probably plain old NYC water :D
    If there’s 1 big kind of scam in the world going on, it’s bottled water.

  • Aleki

    There are so many things wrong with the calculations on this. First of all you said the bottles were made in China and shipped to Fiji. The bottles are actually made there in Fiji and are made of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) which is recyclable. The amount of water that goes into making a PET type bottle according to this is 26 liters for a single liter this is also incorrect. Water used in PET manufacturing process is recycled in a closed system and only loses a small amount to evaporation. The assumption about how much water is used to produce electricity is also incorrect. According to the Fiji Electricity Authority the majority of electricity generated in Fiji is created at the Nadarivatu hydro electric plants as well as at the Butoni wind farms. Neither of these have more than a nominal usage of “wasted water” as inferred by the article. Also the carbon emissions are off because they too assumed the wrong type of electricity production.
    In a nut shell this whole article is complete “bunk” because no actual research was done. Only assumptions.
    I only spent about 15 minutes doing some actual research. This kind of thing is irresponsible on your part to essentially slander a companies reputation based upon incorrect assumptions.
    I’ve never even tried Fiji water, but I think I’ll have to now.

  • Aleki

    Sorry I meant how many carbon emissions were spent at the electric plants. I’m sure my point was none the less illustrated though.

  • Nick Aster

    Sheesh, talk about heated.
    Aleki – sound’s like you found some good information. Thanks!
    Part of the point of this is merely to illustrate the complexity of out worldwide supply chain. Assumptions were certainly made and with more information we can make better assumption. Thanks to everyone who (in a civil manner) got involved in making this clearer!

  • Mokuwai

    Yeah Aleki! what the heck are you thinking? Stop confusing people with the facts! Pablo’s only trying to make a socio-political statement based on incorrect information!
    The Point is still taken Pablo… Fiji is evil and needs to be wiped off the face of the earth! This damn Fijians!

  • Spud 14

    I think Pablo did a much better job than you Mokuwai! Not much of a thinker are ya buddy?

  • Mokuwai

    It’s called “humor” Spud… I guess it was wasted on you though.

  • http://www.crossprofit.com CrossProfit
  • Whitetigerofthesiberiantundra

    people like therealdonquixote make me happy. Because I know no matter how retarded I become, or act therealdonquixote is still around to make me look good. Arguing about offing your self because your on the net arguing.. ggkthxbb
    you ever watch Carlos Mencia?
    I got news therealdonquixote your the 1 out of 3.
    P.S if you can please prove me wrong

  • Jodie

    Regardless of how correct or incorrect Pablo’s figures were I think he is making a good point. 6 billion people drinking Fiji or any other kind of bottled water or soft drink for that matter adds up to BILLIONS of plastic bottles getting thrown out each day. Yes they may be recyclable, but recycling BILLIONS of plastic bottles is a very energy draining activity. In this day and age EVERYONE needs to get a grip on the very real and emerging problem that we are probably about to totally wipe out any chance of survival for the planet which includes us humans IF WE DON’T STOP OUR PATHETIC SELFISH WASTEFUL HABITS ….RIGHT NOW!!!!! How about going and buying yourself a really good water filter instead. Also buy ONE Polycarbon water bottle (that doesn’t leach chemicals into the water)….and there you have what is commonly known as a sustainable action. Tell all your friends to do the same….AND make sure they also tell all their friends to do the same. Pretty soon because of YOU the landfill sites are going to be empty! What a wonderful world it would be.

  • George Schellenberger

    This is an excellent post! Thank you for updating your assumptions in this study when you realized that they were wrong. When making assumptions it is easy to be wrong and I am glad that you admit your mistakes in the interest of the truth. Keep up the good work!

  • aqa103

    Why would I spend $1.50 on overpriced FIJI water or Evian when I can pay 50 cents less on a bottle of Aquafina? Or just use a Brita water filter at home and fill up an empty Nalgene bottle? Just a thought.

  • http://www.bigjohnbates.com John

    What about travellers? Some of us who make our living on the roads choose to drink water instead of carbonated sugar or another dioretic (sp?) substance. Filling a water bottle in a hotel will not last for a 6 hour drive and generally tastes worse than bottled water. Bringing more or larger containers is difficult in a restricted space.
    I’d also like to know how many of these bottled water companies are simply selling us tap water ;p
    So, who has a clever idea for a group of 5 people rehydrating themselves with only hotels and inconvenience stores populating the highways?
    Gatorade need not apply …

  • Jose Roque

    Hi! everyone has the right to comment for the good of all, us now, they in the future, right?
    you are right to brink about the argument and let the waters roll!
    I was visithing Cairo 20 years ago and the Nile river dried off chanals, which was made and used in the past for irrigation purpose, now (tem)was and is a waist dray land those canals drie now are filled whith dicarded empty water bottes!
    with our those botled water no turist could fail to become seek if had to use the local tap water!
    The magestic Nile river longuer than the Amazon river were I come from; The Nile one day sum will be dryed up, as the ecologista are showing!
    How? because the kilimanjare glacial which is the source of teh nile is melthing donw, which is according to the Bible prophecy God say it will happen whatch and see!
    on the other hand, polution is not a problema to humans to worry about, God He already made provisions for it all!
    Daily HE automatically clean the air polution!
    We porduce all kind of polutionthat goes up and become debry in the air, the ice form around these debrys and the great the ppolution the greater are the ice ball that come down cleaning the air allthe time automatically!
    Everything that goes up will come down, right?
    That is what the Bible say!
    as far whater, never will be missing, as long the earth lives there shall be seeding and harvest the Bible say so, what you are not seing is that the Lord made the division from sea to land and nothing can upeset these law
    the more whater is taken out of the sea in to retainers on earth, like humans body and any living cells, the artificail thanks holding water on buidings cars machinary etc. the more the Lord permit the ice cap yeld its reservoir called ice berg or glacier, can you see Divine provision instead of catastrofic events!
    the more we retain the more the Lord supply, because ther earth and the sky shll ass a way but His word will never pass a way!
    these water has to keep theyr bondary, they have to obey the Lord’s command!
    He set the bondaries look in the Bible by your self!
    now as far as the humans, when the polution in great, just boil the water and drink as tea!
    These is what al oriental people do with they water! and you wil survive.
    We better to stop worring about problemas beiond our capability to solve, and look for soluctions manejable, starthing in our own corner!right?
    lets keep things on prespctive, everything is God givem knowlodge remember that God say that the human knowlodegia is follishines comparing with God’s!
    king Soloman said in Proverbs there is nothing new under the sun!
    so I like to say, everything is new under the Son, his name is Jesusu of Nazareth
    HE say who lack knowlodge ask it from God and He will give umbraided to so ever ask whal receive it from God in name of His Son Jesus of Nazareth!
    HE also say whe shall give accout of every idlle word we say!
    farewell friends!
    Note: I am American Braziliam born so my english is not good but my intentions are, sorry for the bad English free lessons are welcome!

  • VictorLaszlo

    “-Former imported water executive, IBWA award-winning marketer.”
    Thank you fr your informative contribution. I’m sure it’s all 100% factual, because after all, noone is more honest than a marketer. :D :D :D :D
    Especially when discussing their own product. :D :D
    (Yes, I’m laughing at you, putz)

  • frances

    i think what jodie said is true and there is no need to get god into this
    what we all need to do is buy kleen kanteens you can go onto kleenkanteen.com and get one. ive got one and it doesnt leek and i dont need to get any more bottled water I AM HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • farfalay

    kleen kanteens will rule over bottled water

  • strange_famous

    The real problem is that in most parts of the world, the U.S. included, is that only an idiot would drink the tap water (anyone who wants to refute this claim needs to drink the tap water in central/south florida), so what are we to do, I myself drink the 0.69 cent gallon jugs of drinking water from the grocery store (just because it tastes slightly better than my swimming pool water, which in turn tastes better than my tap water) , my wife on the other hand refuses to drink anything but EVIAN, to me this is insanity, and considereing the state of the economy I highly doubt Ill be able to afford our house and her EVIAN(which to me is right up there with FIJI and movie theatre popcorn)in another year or so when were all stuck in the midst of a great depression unlike the world has ever seen. THats why its time to move out into the woods and dig a well (just dont tell my wife)… anyway, if any of you wackos want to complain about my runon sentences , go right ahead, just heed these words, WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS, cause pretty soon were all gonna need them, and desperately… anyway those of you who dont think so go right ahead, we need to thin out the herds anyway, you all have a good day now, and dont drink too much water

  • strange_famous

    PS dont drink it if its brown, green, or smells like ass, words Ive lived by traveling the world and havent had a problem yet.

  • strange_famous

    PSS, dont qoute carlos mencia, it only makes you look like an idiot, every one knows carlos mencia steals all his jokes from halfway decent comedians anyway

  • BillysWilly

    I just want to start that the only person on this froum with a word worth reading is Strange_famous and Jodie, People need to get a grip. Did you know that the Adirondacks provide some of the worlds best aquifers and there in our back yard. Not to mention that there is a company in Saratoga Springs, NY that actually gets its H20 from one of these aquifers and bottles its product in glass. Just the idea of drinking exotic imported Fiji water from a natural volcanic rock filter thats been untouched deep within the Earths crust and then putting it into an unatural manmade toxic plastic container seems stupid to me, but whatever. Who am I right? I just think about the use in fossil fuel to import the stuff or the superficial brat that wants to look high priced and snooty.

  • http://udairaj.blogspot.com Rajeev

    Wasting 6 times of 10 times as much water to produce drinking water that may not be as bad at all running in your water lines is being insensitive to the environment. I’d recommend installing water purifiers in taps, which is not only cheaper but also has very little carbon footprint.

  • farfalay

    i just want to let you all know that so many people will not listen to your plees for people to stop drinking bottled water. unless you give them a cheaper alternative way, like giving them a filter and then they have to get their own klean kanteen to fill up every morning from thier now filtered water. then, one by one we will eventually put all bottled water companies out of buisness until klean kanteens rule the world. did i mention that they stay cold (or hot if thats what you want)and do not spill. honestly just get it its stainless steel and reusable!!!!!!!!

  • Leslie Fraser

    Okay now that everyone has had their say factual, emotional, educated, uneducated, open-hearted, angry, etc.—what are some solutions that can be brainstormed around the issue. No matter the numbers, common-sense tells us it is hugely wasteful (not earth friendly) to import water from 10,000 miles away. I say this all points to the need to be solution based and not be petty and slow down the conversation with minor facts.
    The important issue is still hidden; we are not engaged in workable solutions. Most westerners have grown into our creature-comforts– we tend to be lazy environmentalists because the limited number of workable solutions. How to win at saving our resources and the earth does not include silly sophomoric name calling and carrying on; it calls for stepping up to the keyboard with real input and real ideas. Wild ideas are sometimes the answer. I think there is even a web site called the lazy environmentalist. It makes sense the masses will not adopt solutions that do not work. Most cities have been built around the car; now we end up in a car-based community and use a car—-and we feel like hypocrites. I attended the GLEE (Green Living Environmental Education) Festival in the Florida Keys this weekend and was reinspired to the level I remember when I was 14 year old girl reading Chop Wood, Carry Water in 1976. What happened to the future? It is disheartening. I thought “tomorrow” would have showed up years ago and still we are not using renewable sources of energy. How many of you have a water catchment system? Solar or wind energy? Use a hybrid or biofuel car? Where can you begin? Watch the documentary Kilowatt Ours; it will readjust your thinking. The issues feel staggering when we feel alone; when we put our energies together we can accomplish so much more. Think about new America and barn raising. The community would come out and help each other to get the barn walls up. Do you have a skill that could help a friend or neighbor go green? Can you put in solar panels? Can you rig a water catchment system? Can you learn how? Can you form a co-op and start with the energy of a few people joining together to help one another? It is up to us. I am game and I rather be involved in solutions rather than debating; debating is so last millennium! ;-)
    Leslie
    Communication Journey
    Coaching for Success

  • http://www.AskPablo.org Pablo

    Darius wrote:
    Hello Pablo,
    I’m working on an article for a young entrepreneur blog I write for
    and I’d love a little of your wisdom.
    Your article on the Fiji water was great, but I was wondering if you
    could help me break it down to simply math (for the simple folk).
    How much pollution is added to the environment per bottle of water?
    How does that pollution compare to the pollution added by 1 gas
    burning car?
    Thanks and keep putting the great information out there.
    Cheers,
    -Darius
    *****************************
    My Response:
    Darius,
    It is difficult to tell you “how much pollution” because the tool that I use is a material intensity analysis and not an LCA. Material intensity analysis is based on the ideas set forth in the book “Factor Four” and is concerned with material input and product output. Pollution and waste are both “non-product output” and are therefore not assessed (the idea being that any material input either becomes product output or non-product output, counting both would be double-accounting).
    The “water used” from my example is mostly used as power plant cooling water and is not, for the the most part, chemically altered or otherwise polluted. The most quantifiable “pollution” in my example is in the form of the carbon emissions that I calculated for the production and transportation of the water bottle. By far the largest pollution impact of the product would be the improper disposal of the bottle (i.e. not recycling). But since the disposal of the bottle is out of the sphere of influence of the product manufacturer, my work as a sustainability engineer is better aimed at dematerializing and detoxifying the packaging as well as decreasing the transportation distance and suggesting the most “sustainable” transportation modes.
    Pablo

  • Austin Tang

    “The Water Hour” on GoodNewsBroadcast.com
    Check It Out.

  • richard McFarland

    The bottled water issue is not going away. I am from the small town of McCloud in far northern california. Nestle, one of the largest multi-nationals on the planet is attempting to hijack our community water supply to enhance their own bottom line.
    The bottled water industry has done a phenomenal marketing job. They have convinced the gullible masses that it is better to pay exorbiant rates for a public resource that is available to the masses at a fraction of the cost (both environmental and in dollars). This discussion focuses on Fiji brand. The much larger issue is the bottled water industry itself. Are we, as a society, going to let a life-sustaining, public resource become commodified by a handful of greedy corporations? Are we going to consume absurd amounts of energy and oil to produce a toxic (PET) by-product that clogs our landfills (the vast majority of it is not recycled). Or are we, as a society, going to marginalize bottled water the same way that we marginalized tobacco, asbestos, lead paint and DDT.
    The choice is ours. Boycott bottled water.

  • commonsense

    just drink the water and shut up….if you’re really that worried about the environmental aspects of the fiji water, you wouldn’t be drinking it in the first place…

  • http://www.trarkadas.net Arkadas

    Or are we, as a society, going to marginalize bottled water the same way that we marginalized tobacco, asbestos, lead paint and DDT.

  • http://www.grup-hepsi.net Grup Hepsi

    This discussion focuses on Fiji brand. The much larger issue is the bottled water industry itself.

  • Marianne

    FiJi Water is not only better tasting but, the PH is keeping my Uric Acid Stones from building up. FiJi Water is my life line. I not only drink it I cook with it. Before anyone talks they should go and test the PH level in all water City, Well, other Bottled.

  • http://www.kadinca.net diyet

    Wasting 6 times of 10 times as much water to produce drinking water that may not be as bad at all running in your water lines is being insensitive to the environment. I’d recommend installing water purifiers in taps, which is not only cheaper but also has very little carbon footprint.

  • http://www.tapeten-versand.de Tapeten

    Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more. So please keep up the great work. Greetings.

  • http://www.emlaklinkleri.com Alex

    Thanks for the post! I somehow missed this and wouldn’t have known without your post. I heard about it on boagworld.com’s podcast but I’ve been following your work since the late ’90’s.
    Thanks for all your hardwork and your recent book. It’s been a great addition to my library!

  • http://www.kozmekolik.com kozmetik

    The real problem is that in most parts of the world, the U.S. included, is that only an idiot would drink the tap water (anyone who wants to refute this claim needs to drink the tap water in central/south florida), so what are we to do, I myself drink the 0.69 cent gallon jugs of drinking water from the grocery store (just because it tastes slightly better than my swimming pool water, which in turn tastes better than my tap water) , my wife on the other hand refuses to drink anything but EVIAN, to me this is insanity, and considereing the state of the economy I highly doubt Ill be able to afford our house and her EVIAN(which to me is right up there with FIJI and movie theatre popcorn)in another year or so when were all stuck in the midst of a great depression unlike the world has ever seen. THats why its time to move out into the woods and dig a well (just dont tell my wife)… anyway, if any of you wackos want to complain about my runon sentences , go right ahead, just heed these words, WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS, cause pretty soon were all gonna need them, and desperately… anyway those of you who dont think so go right ahead, we need to thin out the herds anyway, you all have a good day now, and dont drink too much water

  • sinema

    The bottled water issue is not going away. I am from the small town of McCloud in far northern california. Nestle, one of the largest multi-nationals on the planet is attempting to hijack our community water supply to enhance their own bottom line.
    The bottled water industry has done a phenomenal marketing job. They have convinced the gullible masses that it is better to pay exorbiant rates for a public resource that is available to the masses at a fraction of the cost (both environmental and in dollars). This discussion focuses on Fiji brand. The much larger issue is the bottled water industry itself. Are we, as a society, going to let a life-sustaining, public resource become commodified by a handful of greedy corporations? Are we going to consume absurd amounts of energy and oil to produce a toxic (PET) by-product that clogs our landfills (the vast majority of it is not recycled). Or are we, as a society, going to marginalize bottled water the same way that we marginalized tobacco, asbestos, lead paint and DDT.
    The choice is ours. Boycott bottled water.

  • magazin

    The bottled water issue is not going away. I am from the small town of McCloud in far northern california. Nestle, one of the largest multi-nationals on the planet is attempting to hijack our community water supply to enhance their own bottom line.
    The bottled water industry has done a phenomenal marketing job. They have convinced the gullible masses that it is better to pay exorbiant rates for a public resource that is available to the masses at a fraction of the cost (both environmental and in dollars). This discussion focuses on Fiji brand. The much larger issue is the bottled water industry itself. Are we, as a society, going to let a life-sustaining, public resource become commodified by a handful of greedy corporations? Are we going to consume absurd amounts of energy and oil to produce a toxic (PET) by-product that clogs our landfills (the vast majority of it is not recycled). Or are we, as a society, going to marginalize bottled water the same way that we marginalized tobacco, asbestos, lead paint and DDT.
    The choice is ours. Boycott bottled water.

  • http://www.portraitkingdom.com portrait artists

    I was a bit scared upon knowing that Fiji gets its bottle from China. Here in our place, a lot of products from China have been banned. Toys made from China are reported to contain lead. There are canned goods that contain worms, cockroaches and other yucky stuff. And have you heard about the Menu Foods issue? Now, here comes one great tasting and thirst quenching products that takes its container from China. Isn’t this a bit alarming?

  • http://www.ozgunbalkon.com cam balkon

    just drink the water and shut up….if you’re really that worried about the environmental aspects of the fiji water, you wouldn’t be drinking it in the first place…

  • John Mashey

    Penn & Teller on bottled water (13 minutes), not science, but fun, from the BS series:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfPAjUvvnIc
    Blind taste tests of NY water versus bottled water.
    Water menu & tasting in Los Angeles restaurant, utterly priceless.
    Everest Water … from Corpus Christi, TX Municipal Water Supply…

  • Dee

    I know that I am comming at the end of a very important discussion, and my comments may never be seen because of the impact of the first few weeks of posting and the interest that always subsides a few weeks after a question is posted but here it goes for all who keeps interest.
    One: The water treatment plants are already built, running most updated, and insure safe water for their consumers, who has put the deposit on the bottles (sewage, waste, and water managment systems). Most of these systems are already paid for; now we are putting money toward forgien markets for water that is just as safe as water from our taps. So all the money spent goes now towards processing water the figi way to pay for their equipment for their city, when a simple cheaper up grade may be available if the Figi water is refined better than our local cities. Thus when the water is spent in forgien markets, although transportation costs are job generating for our people to get the water to the local markets, it is about the only plus here.
    TWO: Water is a presious commodity, if we decide to neglect the cleaning of our water, up grading our systems, or employing people in our area to supply this presious commodity, because we like the Figi Water more, does that give us licence to not clean our water and continue the degregation that sent the consumer to the forgien markets?
    THREE: If we pull in the bottles, not just the water, pay our nickel or dime for deposit, or not, and it goes to our recycling systems, or waste land fills, who is responsibile for the management of the plastic after use of a forgien marketing system?
    There are many more aspects of this than just likeing the Figi or any other forgien marketed bottled water, when we are able to apply this money to our systems to achieve the same quality of water to consume. Our equipment and water stops being processed and the degregation of local supply deminish to a point that even recreation, food (fish), natural filtrations systems are all effected because the monies are given to a forgien market. I have personally tasted the Figi water, it is good, as good a water goes, but this also does not exclude the tampering with the water bottles that have been getting thinner and thinner and more apt to tampering other than the seal cap for you protection. etc, etc, and there is so much more!

  • Jake

    Ive been living in Fiji and it has over 30020 Islands and 25% of all those Island arent habated that means no one lives there and the population of the country right now is 800,000!!Just Imagine a small place like that with a small population,Its product is famous all over Hollywood!Plus its the only source of cleanest water in the world away about 200,00000 kilometeres from any factories!

  • http://www.AskPablo.org Pablo
  • http://www.AskPablo.org Pablo

    Click on the link in my previous comment to see a satellite image of the supposed Fiji bottling plant. It doesn’t really look anything like on the bottle…

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