Published February 10, 2009 09:10 AM

Greenwashing Water Bottles

What makes Poland Springs Eco-Friendly water bottles good for nature? According to the improved label, the new eco-friendly shape "looks and feels different because it is purposely designed with an average of 30% less plastic to be easier on the environment."  The label on the bottle neglects to mention that the water bottles are one of the most detrimental products for the world, even if they have less plastic than their competitors.  Lately, the environmental movement has coined a new word for companies that use fake green credentials to deceive consumers into believing their products help the natural world: greenwashing.  The Poland Spring Company pretends to care about the Earth, but that's a thin façade.  They just want to satisfy their voracious appetite for money.


A Poland Springs Eco-Friendly water bottle begins as a dinosaur.  After dying, the dinosaur rots away, along with other ancient species, in the ground for a long time.  Millions of years later, long after the remains had become an underground swamp of toxic black muck, a prospector discovers it.   He extracts the newfound oil, and ships it to a refinery in New Jersey.  The air by the refinery is thick with smoke and a sulfurous odor.  The oil is then manufactured into convenient Poland Springs Eco-Friendly plastic bottles, which are filled with pure, clean water, similar to NYC tap water.   One of these bottles is sold to a man at a restaurant, it is finished in an hour, and it is thrown out.  400 years after that person died, the plastic bottle finally disintegrates.

Poland Springs Eco-Friendly water bottles sell like air conditioners on a sweltering summer day.  Who wouldn't want one?  They are marketed well, for the brand name connotes natural, healthy spring water.  The label that pictures a pristine glacier amidst a thick Maine pine forest reinforces this image.    The bottle has an easy to carry grip, as well, which nobody can resist.  And they are extremely convenient, for without them, consumers would have to wash out and refill their water bottles. And that must be such a hassle.  Most importantly, the eco-friendly label eases people's guilt, and someone who might otherwise not buy a water bottle can buy an eco-friendly water bottle.  People naively assume that since something is marketed as eco-friendly, it is friendly for the environment.  True, the Poland Spring Eco-Friendly water bottle has 30% less plastic than an average water bottle, but, though that is a nice baby step in the right direction, it doesn't change the reality.  An SUV that gets 10 mpg, likewise, is bad for the environment.  If the SUV got 30% better mileage (13mpg) it would still be ecologically detrimental, and could not be considered eco-friendly in any sense.  Therefore, companies' claims, unless they are independently certified, cannot be trusted, for a company will say anything possible to make a greater profit.

What happens to a Poland Springs Eco-Friendly water bottle after it is used?  About 80% of them are trashed after a single use.  According to the Container Recycling Institute, Americans threw out about 50 billion recyclable water bottles so far this year, and many water-manufacturing companies have opposed efforts to include water bottles in state beverage deposit laws.  Water bottles are a growing industry, and as the industry grows, so does its ecological footprint.

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