National Parks Continue to Send Bottled Water Packing

The Story of Stuff Project and Corporate Accountability International release a funny, 45-second viral video that pans the sale of single-use, plastic bottled water in America’s national parks.

story of bottled waterI love this time of year. School’s out, summer’s in, and millions of people across the United States will reconnect with the wonder and majesty of our national parks.

When I was a kid, our family’s annual camping trips from Seattle to the North Cascades mountains were a real joy. They were also a big part of what turned me into the environmental activist I am today. When you’re out in the wild, surrounded by Earth’s bounty, its hard not to want to protect it.

Each summer, 280 million people visit our national parks. While there, these visitors consume 2.6 billion gallons of water. But way too much of it, sadly, comes from disposable plastic bottles.

We know better, right? Why are visitors to our national parks being sold an obviously wasteful, environmentally unfriendly product?

Several years ago, Coca-Cola and other bottled water corporations leveraged their financial contributions to parks-affiliated foundations to stop a national bottled water phase out proposed by the Park Service. Now, if a park wants to go bottled water free, they must conduct expensive, time-consuming studies to prove what we already know: banning the bottle reduces waste and is the right thing to do.

That’s crazy!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want plastic bottles polluting our national parks. That’s why we at the Story of Stuff Project have teamed up with our friends at Corporate Accountability International to call on the director of the National Park Service to ban bottled water in all national parks across the U.S.

We even created a fun video to spark conversation about the campaign. In it, majestic scenes from our Parks—Old Faithful erupting, water cascading down Yosemite’s Bridalveil Falls, an exhilarating trip down whitewater rapids—are laid over with bottled water special effects! Was that a salmon in that Grizzly’s mouth or a liter bottle of water?!

Check it out!

Despite the hurdles put up by Coke, 14 national parks and monuments have gone bottled water-free, including Zion and Arches (Utah), Grand Canyon (Arizona), and Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii). Parks like these are both positively informing the way the public thinks about water—that it is a shared resource, like our Parks, not a commodity—and significantly reducing their waste in the process. Up to 20 percent of Grand Canyon National Park’s overall waste stream came from plastic bottles before the phase out.

I know from experience that the public is on our side. Several years ago, our team released The Story of Bottled Water and it has been one of our most popular videos, racking up nearly 5 million views. In a complicated world, choosing the tap over bottled water is simply a no brainer.

So this summer, before you head out on your vacation in the woods, to the shore or on a raft down the Grand Canyon, make sure you send a message to the Park Service that you’ve got their back—that its time to tell Coke to take a hike and for our parks to go bottled water free.

Learn more on the “Think Outside the Bottle” page.

8 responses

  1. My only question is simple. What do we drink when at these national parks if we cannot drink water? Huge areas of land in the middle of summer usually means thirsty people. Are we to hope for a water fountain miles into the forest? I have not seen this part discussed yet.

    1. I think you’re supposed to bring a reusable bottle and refill it from one of the copious filling stations in the car camping area and welcome stations. You’ve got to pack in water one way or the other – no reason it needs to come in a single use bottle.

      1. Right. Thanks for the perspective. I have never been there, so I was curious how they approached this. Don’t really know how I overlooked this likely and obvious solution, but there it is. :-)

    2. They still sell soft drinks at these national parks though. How is that better? The reason to buy bottled water is to get a cold drink, and people shouldn’t have to drink GMO HFCS or artificial sweetener just to have something cold. When they eliminate ALL the plastic bottles, including the soft drinks, then it would make sense to eliminate the bottled water. Not until then.

      1. No, you drink water because you’re thirsty. You’re right though, soft drinks are bad too. The point is water is essentially free and generally of the highest quality in a national park. Very, very dumb to buy bottled water. Part of the national parks mission is education. Part of education is preventing dumbness.

        1. None of that gives you the right to buy bottled water. What you ought to be doing is filtering your water (like normal campers) and emailing the National Parks to ask why they’re not adding filtration to their taps.

        2. It’s very peculiar to me that with all the things wrong in the world — spraying fire retardants and poison over every square inch of the soil, factory farming, building houses out of paper so that they get moldy as soon as there’s any sort of leak, the rising levels of obesity due in part to poor food choices, the increasing stratification of rich and poor — people would choose bottled water as their pet issue. Mostly what the national parks have done have set up conditions whereby people drink more soda rather than water, and that can’t possibly be a good thing. I would have bought soda on my last visit to a national park myself, if I weren’t so determined to avoid the Roundup Ready high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners in them.

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