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Bottled Water Offered on AirTran Flights Touted as Green

| Thursday July 30th, 2009 | 7 Comments

Icelandic GlacialAirTran is a budget airline that you’re most likely familiar with for popping up on all the flight promo aggregators online. Today, they made an interesting announcement. They will feature the world’s first Carbon Neutral water.

Carbon Neutral water you say? Yes, starting today, passengers on AirTran flights will get treated to bottles of Icelandic Glacial, water made with fully recyclable PET plastic from a Carbon Neutral certified bottler in Iceland.

Citing an AirTran press release, “Icelandic Glacial is a pioneer in water with environmentally responsible consumer products including industry leading Carbon Neutral certified bottled water, great taste, exceptional Icelandic purity, fully recyclable PET bottle sizes, and award winning bottle design.”

“The unique packaging coupled with the exceptional taste of the Icelandic Glacial water and the environmentally responsible product will be a hit with our customers,” said Tad Hutcheson, vice president of marketing and sales for AirTran Airways.

According to its website—which features two Icelandic beauties, suggesting the water is as pure and exquisite as they are (picture above)—the company claims sources its product from a “naturally replenished catchment zone” from glacial runoff. All of its operations and transportation footprints are offset, and the company’s production is powered by geothermal and hydroelectric energy.

Named Best Water of 2007 by industry group BevNET, some analysts say that companies like Icelandic Glacial will make the glacier-rich state prosperous.

However, as we read stories about bottled water bans in cities and ad campaigns filled with anti-tobacco-esque ire, what does an “eco-friendly” bottled water really mean? Despite its recyclability, do companies like this only contribute to our unsustainable culture of consumption? Does purchasing carbon offsets discount the fact that water is traveling thousands of miles from the depths of Icelandic glaciers to get to consumers in the US and the UK? Or does a company like this need to be applauded for examining all the aspects of its environmental footprint and seeking to find sustainable solutions for them?

Readers, tell us what you think.


▼▼▼      7 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • http://twitter.com/neznayu Yi

    Have to admit, that eco-friendly and bottled water don’t belong in the same sentence in my book. It does not do anything to address our inherent problem with the chic of disposability and our view of what is an ok level of consumption. Why can’t we start bringing empty water bottles on the planes and ask for them to be filled with water instead of either getting an extra bottle or wasting an extra plastic cup?

    Here’s the “but”–It is important to recognize that for every company that makes something terrible just a little better and then gets slammed for it, there are the countless other companies who are continuing their outright-eco-unfriendly water bottling (etc) practices. So who’s worse?

    And of course it’s a lot less energy intensive drinking water than juice, soda, alcohol, and we’re already talking about people who are using jet fuel, blah blah blah…

    In other words, good job BevNET and AirTran for trying, but please please don’t you guys or anyone else start feeling like it’s ok continuing to live our same over-consuming lifestyle just by using things that are recyclable (not even post-consumer material, in this case!) and buying offsets, expecting other people to do the cleaning up.

    btw, re: glacial melts, isn’t there something ironic about profiting from global warming? ;]

  • Ashwin Seshagiri

    Yi, great point about profiting from global warming (glacial runoff and all that). Whole new dimension I failed to touch on!

    • Bill Laughlin

      I was curious about this company so went to their website and found out that it isn’t glacier melt. The actual press release doesn’t say anything about glacial runoff. In fact, the company seems to make clear that the water is natural rain and snowfall. See below.

      From the Icelandic Glacial website: “The Ölfus spring is fed from high in the mountains by gradual filter of rainfall, snow and ice melt.”
      “Icelandic Glacial is proud of its green credentials and is clear that the water is in no way connected or fed from actual melted or melting glaciers.”
      I am not here to defend any bottled water company, but I do think that we need to get beyond picking out this one segment if we are serious about the environment. For the idea that we all bring bottles (better yet steel containers) on board our airflights, how about the idea that we all buy only fresh, unpackaged food at the grocery store. I think it is typical American folly that 2/3 of the children in the U.S. are obese or overweight, and people can only criticize the healthiest bottled beverage available. Soft drinks, high sugared juices and sports drinks also come in plastic. Why not focus more attention on these products? Tap water is great when it is properly filtered, but we need the convenience of bottled water. Let’s fix the obesity problem, buy only unpackaged foods, and then we can address the bottled water issue.

      • Ashwin Seshagiri

        Hey Bill,

        Thanks for the clarification. Definitely don’t want to misrepresent this company for something that it’s not. However, on a marketing aspect, the idea that a glacier is referenced in the name of the product suggests that the water is somehow connected to Iceland’s glaciers, which have definitely seen recent reductions. Nonetheless, thanks for the insight and clarification!

  • http://www.gina-mariecheeseman.com Gina-Marie Cheeseman

    Yi, you really do have a great point about profitting from climate change. I completely agree with you that we need to stop living the “same over-consuming lifestyle.”

  • http://www.H2Ox2.com Julia Girdler

    Great point about profiting from global warming, Yi. It brought a smile to my face!

    There will never be anything green about bottled water. Promoting it as Carbon Neutral leads people to believe that it’s environmentally friendly…which it isn’t.

    Tad Hutcheson says that it’s an “environmentally responsible product.” I don’t think so, Tad. Carbon neutral or not, you’re still selling water in a plastic bottle that has about an 80% chance of winding up in a landfill far, far away from the picturesque glacier where it was captured. (?)

    Perhaps I don’t have a full appreciation for “carbon neutral” but becoming carbon neutral to produce just about the most environmentally unfriendly product on the planet seems a little ironic, doesn’t it?

    When I travel, I pass through security with my empty metal water bottle and fill it at any Starbucks, or bar, on the other side. I’ve never been refused. The longer the flight, the bigger bottle I take.

  • Nick Aster

    I’ll bet an Airline could brand it’s own filtered tap water – call it “Airtran Pure 35,000″ or whatever, and serve it from nice big branded jugs filled up be the plane’s already existing water tanks which are nice and clean alumninum. There’s no reason whatsoever for it to be served in individual bottles to passengers. The company could save tons of money, save a lot of hassle picking up bottles left all over the place, and make themselves look green at the same time!

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