Think back to the last time you bought bottled water. How many options do you remember seeing? Assuming it was a grocery store there were likely at least 15 brands of bottled water, with each brand offering multiple formats and water packs. The pack sizes may have come as little as single packs and as many as 24 packs of bottled water. There were likely hundreds of options of bottled water. While options are great, they create an environmental burden and may often cost more than the 24 pack equivalent of bottled water. Below we will discuss the environmental impact from shipping, storage, transportation, cooling and redistribution of the products. The cost savings and cost improvements when buying in a 24 pack of bottled water. The convenience or larger packs of bottled water. And finally, some of the sustainable alternatives to bottled water, using materials like aluminum rather than traditional plastic packaging.
Packaging waste comes in many forms, primary packaging (like the water bottle itself), secondary packaging (like a 4 pack or 6 pack of bottled water, 3rd tier packaging which could be the box that the 4-packs shipped in, and finally the pallet level packaging. The pallet to ship bottled water will at a minimum include stretch film and a wooden pallet, it may include corner protectors for the edges of the pallet, and slip sheets between each case of bottled water. Of course, most of this packaging is made from plastics and will not be recycled or recovered regardless if it makes it into the recycling container on your curbside. Much of the above described packaging cannot be eliminated, for example the primary packaging or the bottle for the water- must exist. The secondary packaging is almost always required however. The 3rd level and above packaging may be eliminated when bottled water is sold in a 24 pack, however. Even better, if both the primary and secondary packaging are both sustainably made the total environmental impact is further reduced. When buying your bottled water a test you could consider to determine how much unnecessary packaging was used to get it on the shelf; how many tiers of packaging were used? When water is sold as a 24 pack the answer is one. When bottled water is sold as a single serve the answer is again one.
24 packs of bottled water will also save you money! When you buy bottled water in a 24 pack the retailer is able to reach their greatest economies of scale. They are selling the most product at the lowest manufacturing cost and passing that cost saving onto you as the customer. Thinking back to our understanding of the tiers of packaging used in your product, each of these unnecessary tiers add additional cost to the product. A 4 pack plastic wrap comes with additional cost, cost that is not present in a 24 pack of bottled water. Another great test to consider when buying bottled water- what is the net cost per single serve? Here is an example; a 6 pack of RAIN (responsiblyrain.com), a sustainable bottled water company that uses aluminum bottles might cost $9.99 at the grocery store. The store may also offer a 24 pack of RAIN at $34.99. If we do some simple math we can understand quickly the cost savings when buying in bulk, eliminating the unnecessary packaging and buying less often. In this example the net cost of a single serve is $1.66 for the 6 pack and $1.45 for the 24 pack of bottled water. This is a savings of nearly $0.25 per bottle and over $5 on the entire 24 pack of bottled water. Annually this savings could be in the hundreds, all by making one simple cost saving change, buying bottled water in 24 packs.
The convenience of buying bottled water in 24 packs also contributes further to its environmental impact. When you purchase bottled water in bulk you are able to significantly reduce the total carbon emissions derived from your bottled water purchases. Assuming consumers drive their vehicles to the grocery store rather than walk, each of these trips to buy bottled water could be cut down many times when purchasing in bulk. Yet again, this extremely simple change can also free up so much time you spend shopping.
Ultimately, bottled water packaged in plastic packaging is terrible for the environment, oceans, rivers, landfills and even our bodies. If you must buy bottled water in plastic packaging at least consider buying in a 24 pack of bottled water. Better yet if that 24 pack of bottled water comes in cardboard secondary packaging instead of thin film. As an alternative to plastic bottled water consider an aluminum bottled water the next time you are purchasing. There are many options available now in many sizes and pack quantities. When purchasing an aluminum bottled water you should seek one out that uses a natural, high quality spring water source and plastic-free secondary packaging, RAIN (www.responsiblyrain.com) is one of our favorites for this.
RAIN bottles only single-sourced spring water in all-aluminum packaging and plastic free secondary paper based packaging. The spring water used is from a natural and ultra sustainable spring source in Northeast Georgia, one of the rainiest counties in the United States. The water has a light, clean easy to drink taste. Because RAIN bottles in all aluminum bottles and cans, their product is far more sustainable than that of any bottled water packaged in plastic packaging. Aluminum is recycled at rates over 5x that of plastic packaging. Finally, the secondary packaging used in the shipping and transportation of RAIN’s product is made from Certified Sustainable paper and cardboard based materials. They are both recyclable and home compostable.