IBWA Settles Multiple Lawsuits

As we know from previous posts, the International Bottled Water Association has made multiple efforts to save face in the wake of environmentalist criticism. Two recent lawsuits, one against Eco Canteen, and one against ZeroWater, may be the organization’s most desperate attempts yet. In fact, these might even deserve a spot next to Nestle Waters as some of the most ridiculous lawsuits of all time.

IBWA has accused both companies of making “false and misleading claims” in their advertisements. These include the claim that plastic bottles contain harmful chemicals like BPA that leech into water, or that bottled water is unsafe and the act of recycling single-use bottles releases toxic substances into the environment. IBWA was victorious in its lawsuit against Eco Canteen, a distributor of reusable, stainless-steel water bottles. ZeroWater, maker of a 5-stage ion exchange water filter, has agreed to settle peacefully by retracting any and all false claims.

Perhaps the IBWA simply can’t handle all of the bad press it has received from bottled water critics – which could explain their recent back-to-back release of several online videos that advocate bottled water as a “safe and healthy alternative.” While it is certainly an alternative to less healthy sugary beverages, some might argue that the presentation of bottled water as “safe and healthy” in and of itself is just as “false and misleading” as some of the advertising claims made by the defendants in both lawsuits. A quick glance at our list of the “Top 10 Most Disturbing Things in Our Water” reveals that not all bottled water is as “safe and healthy” as  companies claim. (Pay special attention to #5 and #1 on this list, and you’ll see what we mean.)

In defense of the IBWA, it is true that the claims made by ZeroWater and Eco Canteen were indeed misleading. Though BPA and phthalates are used in the manufacture of many reusable plastic bottles, they are not contained in the single-use varieties.  Moreover, not all bottled water is unsafe or unhealthy, and it is certainly healthier than soda. Still, we can’t discount the negative environmental effects of the tons of plastic waste that go unrecycled each year – of which, single-use plastic water bottles are a part (albeit small). Nor can we ignore the ridiculous costs associated with this supposedly more convenient product. Bottled water is expensive, and in many cases is nothing more than purified tap water – a natural commodity that can easily be obtained from the kitchen sink with the use of a faucet water filter, or a reverse osmosis filter, if you’re looking for more advanced filtration. It’s not rocket science; mere common sense will persuade the average consumer that filtered tap water is a safe alternative that is both tasty and eco-friendly.

Frankly, such desperation on the part of the IBWA just makes me sad. Who’s next? Annie Leonard?

Celebrate Indoor Air Quality Month with Filters Fast

Halloween isn’t the only thing to celebrate this month. October is National Indoor Air Quality Month, and several states, including North Dakota, Michigan and Montana are celebrating by spreading the word about the dangers of harmful indoor (and outdoor) air contaminants.

Seasonal changes often result in higher incidences of allergy problems and illnesses. Pollen is prevalent in the spring and fall opens the door to ragweed. Asthma, often caused by air pollution, is a growing epidemic among children and adults, resulting in missed school and work days, along with emergency room visits, and in extreme cases, even death. Indoor air pollution deserves way more attention than it currently receives. Though many people are aware of air contaminants such as mold, tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide, they may not be fully aware of just how dangerous these allergens can be. It is important to raise awareness and educate others on how they can avoid the problems caused by air pollution.

Here are some tips to help you improve the indoor air quality in your home:

1. Take our Indoor Air Quality Quiz to find out how dangerous your home environment is.

2. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.

3. Regularly change the A/C filters and microwave and hood range filters in your home.  Air filters with a higher MERV rating are more efficient at removing microscopic particles. You may also want to purchase an air purifier.

4. Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner and change the HEPA filter regularly.

5. Clean furniture regularly (more if you have pets in your home). Use non-toxic household cleaning products. Use hypoallergenic bedding.

Like any other national holiday, the  month of October is a time for recognition and remembrance – specifically the recognition of the importance of clean air. Join the observance and celebrate by spreading the word and sharing this post.

Breweries Committed to Water Conservation & Preservation

Sierra Nevada water

Behind Every Great Beer is Great Water

Many craft beer geeks can wax philosophical about different malts, yeast strains and hop varietals, but it’s easy to forget about beer’s fourth ingredient, water. Beer is around 90 percent water, and many brewers throughout the world attribute much of their beer’s flavor to the water with which they brew.

Not only is water a necessary ingredient in brewing beer, but hundreds of gallons of water are also used to sanitize brewing equipment. When all’s said and done, it can take anywhere from 8-24 gallons of water to produce a single pint of beer.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the following breweries are doing their part in helping with water preservation and water conservation where they can.

Sierra Nevada

If you bought a 12-pack of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or seasonal beers between August 1 and last Friday, you might have helped save a waterway without knowing it, thanks to Sierra Nevada’s Wild Rivers program. A portion of the proceeds from those beers will be donated by Sierra Nevada to the Western Rivers Conservancy and River Network. Even though this promotion ended last Friday (Sept. 17), there’s a good chance that Sierra Nevada will continue its Wild Rivers campaign. Sierra Nevada first launched this campaign in May of this year.

Sweetwater Brewing

Sweetwater Brewing of Atlanta, Ga. is also committed to protecting rivers, and one in particular. Since launching the “Save the Hooch” campain in 2006, the brewery has raised more than $150,000 for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. These funds have been used to support UCR’s water quality and river patrol programs. This summer, Sweetwater raised funds by selling paper fish and t-shirts that read, “I gave of my liver to save the river.” We should all be so giving.

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

It seems good breweries aren’t often far from the water, and this is especially true of Great Lakes Brewing Co., which is just a stone’s throw from Lake Erie. Great Lakes Brewing established the Burning River Foundation in 2007 as a result of their popular Burning River Fest, which they throw every year. Both the fest and foundation take their name from the “‘watershed moment’ that raised a new level of eco-consciousness—the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River.” Proceeds from the festival support the foundation, which in turn “provides resources for the sustainable future of our waterways.”

And Great Lakes Brewing Co. isn’t the only brewery looking out for the Great Lakes. Every year, craft brewers and cheesemakers attend the Great Lakes Craft Brewers and Water Conservation Conference to discuss ways to use less water in their crafts. This is imperative, since any “water-intensive” businesses within the watershed must implement water conservation measures in accordance with the Great Lakes Compact. The conference will include presentations on the following: “water conservation, water auditing, rain water harvesting, wastewater treatment and recycling, water science behind the Great Lakes Compact, waste to energy installations, and CIP processes for both brewers and cheesemakers”.

Stone Brewing Co.

Stone Brewing’s Bill Sherwood will be among the brewers in attendance at the Great Lakes conference next month. This is not surprising considering that Greg Koch, something of a celeberity in the craft beer industry, is a tap water advocate — so much so that the brewery’s bistro participated in UNICEF’s Tap Project. Through the project, Stone asked its patrons to not only drink tap water, but to make a donation of $1 to UNICEF, which would provide clean drinking water to a child in need for 40 days. While this step may not seem as much about “preservation” as the others, it’s refreshing to see a brewery advocate tap water over bottled, which wastes resources and often depletes natural reservoirs.

Anheuser-Busch InBev

It’s not just the smaller, craft breweries that are doing their part to save and protect water. Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced its desire to become the world’s greenest brewer, a goal that the company hopes to achieve by reducing its water consumption by 30 percent by 2012. If the company can do so, it will likely be the most water-efficient brewer in the world. UPDATE: According to their website, Anheuser-Bush has reduced water by 37% in its 12 US breweries since adopting that goal.

Miller Coors (SABMiller)

Not to be outdone by its biggest competitor in Anheuser-Busch, Miller Coors is also taking its own steps to conserve water. The company boasts several breweries with a water-to-beer ratio of less than 4:1 (the industry average is 5:1), and Miller Coors aims to reduce its water usage by 15 percent in 2015. This would put their water-to-beer ratio at 3.5:1.

September has been named Miller Coor’s Water Stewardship Volunteer Month. This is the second year that Miller Coors employees across the nation have spent the month resting water quality and cleaning up rivers and beaches. Like Sierra Nevada, Miller Coors has partnered with River Network, as well as The Nature Conservancy.

Miller Coors also encourages people to conserve water in their own homes with its Water Conservation Challenge.

New Belgium Brewing

If you’ve been counting along, you might notice that New Belgium Brewing is No. 7 on our list of six breweries committed to water conservation. I’m ashamed to say I overlooked one of the most environmentally-conscious breweries out there, but fortunately Melani over at TapHunter.com reminded me to check them out.

When I did, I found that New Belgium published a water usage report last year showing a reduction in water usage for the year prior to that (2008). At that time, they were using 3.8 barrels of water for every barrel of beer.

And like many breweries in this post, New Belgium isn’t only interested in conserving the water it uses to brew with. This past summer, they used their appropriately-named Skinny Dip beer to draw attention to the Save the Colorado campaign, of which they are a partner. The Colorado river now runs dry before it reaches the Sea of Cortez, and it faces a myriad of threats, such as climate change, species extinction, invasive species, dams and population growth. If you want to support a brewery that is committed to water conservation and sustainability, you can’t go wrong with New Belgium.