July 22, 2008 Last week I attended a faculty retreat where, as I sat down, was handed a bottle of Nestle Pure Life brand bottled water. Typically I don't drink any bottled water unless it is in situations where the only other choice is to dehydrate my body and consequently die. I twisted off the cap and immediately noticed the slimmer bottle design. As I turned around the bottle in my hands, I noticed a somewhat mysterious back yellow label claiming Nestle was great for the planet. The label reads:
Nestle® Pure Life® is proud to bring you a bottle that is better for the environment, because it is made with up to 30% less plastic.
I saved the bottle after drinking its contents as I recognized Nestle had committed two green washing sins (of the six): Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off, and Sin of Fibbing. The trade-off sin comes with the fact that most of bottled water drinkers are still throwing the PET plastic bottle away at alarming rates (PET is recycled around 20% in the USA - 2006 stats). However in this case, you're throwing a "up to 30% less" away. Nestle's real claim here is that they are using most likely less petroleum and energy to manufacture this bottle, preventing CO2 emissions and other pollutants from entering our air/water and of course saving them money. If you buy this bottle you get the same amount of water (amazingly) but still the pay the same price. The cost savings Nestle achieved with this bottle is not passed down to you.
The second sin here is lying. Essentially there is nothing green or sustainable about PET or bottled water. Bottled water waste clogs our landfills and environment, dry up underground aquifers costing farmlands and wetlands, continue our dependence on oil, etc. The act of buying water in which you then throw away the packaging that costs 1000 times the price of tap water is nothing more than ingenious marketing scam and a threat to our clean water supply and environment.
(The other bottle picture here is from Ice Mountain water – which is owned by Nestle. So it is no surprise they also have a similar bottle design and eco-friendly messaging. Of course on Ice Mountain it is "greened" up a bit to wow all of us simple-minded consumers.)