TetraPak + Bottled Water Still Equals Greenwashed Nonsense

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

Every time the Sustainable Brands conference rolls around I’m thrilled by the authenticity and openness of the conference participants. But there are always one or two who slip through the cracks. This year’s culprit? h2O Natural Spring Water. The product was given out this week to conference participants.

h2O is “natural spring water” from a place in Canada called the Niagara Escarpment. The difference between h2O and other bottled water products is that h2O comes in a Tetra Pak box instead of a plastic bottle. Tetra Pak is a “mostly paper” carton which also contains aluminum, and various plastics which make recycling it difficult – though not technically impossible. The primary environmental advantages of Tetra Paks is that they weigh a great deal less than a glass bottle, and, being rectangular, are capable of being packed very efficiently on a truck or shelf.

Tetra Paks happen to work well as transportation vessels for things like milk or wine, though there’s some debate as to whether TetraPak is a “greener” solution for these purposes. When it comes to wine, shipped from far flung vineyards to a final destination, Tetra Pak boxes almost certainly save significant amounts of CO2 as well as fuel. When it comes to other products like milk or soup, Tetra Pak offers the added advantage of being airtight, allowing such products to sit for a long time unrefrigerated, adding to energy savings and consumer safety.

We’ve talked before about Tetra Pak’s commitment to sustainability and the fact that the difficulties in recycling their products are more a matter of municipal policy than the fault of Tetra Pak.

But – to get the point: Wine requires packaging and shipping and can’t be produced everywhere. Milk is perishable. Water is neither perishable nor does it require packaging of any kind. Furthermore, plastic bottles are not any heavier than Tetra Paks and are readily recyclable. Not only that, but bio plastics are not especially hard to come by these days, and a bottled water company that uses them might actually have a smidgen of legitimacy on their side in claiming to be “green”. Not so for h2O.

The final straw in my spur of the moment analysis is this message on the side of the box: “Save the planet one drink at a time“. Exactly how does buying this product lead to “saving the planet” in any way? It’s simply water in a package that will not be recycled, shipped a long distance, with a silly message on the side.

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Is bottled water bad? Read more here.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.