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?

IBWA Strikes (Out) Again

Last month, we wrote about the International Bottled Water Association‘s video, “The Real Story of Bottled Water,” a quirky rebuttal to Annie Leonard’s film – “The Story of Bottled Water” – on the bottled water industry’s dishonest marketing tactics. In their latest film, “The Inner Workings of a Bottled Water Plant,” the IBWA resorts to such tactics again:

While the intentions of the video are clearly to make the process of bottling water seem  both interesting and necessary, the tactics used just aren’t that convincing. From the beginning, it becomes obvious to viewers just how wasteful the bottled water industry really is.

The tour guide in the film emphasizes the fact that the source of the water bottled in his plant is a “natural spring,” which “flows year round.” He says, “If we were not in the bottled water business, it wouldn’t make any difference. It would still be flowing. It’s a natural spring.” This statement – likely unintentionally – makes the activity of buying bottled water seem ridiculous.  Since it flows naturally and freely from the ground all year long – why pay for it?

The plant admits to producing 150,000 gallons of water and up to 30,000 bottles of water a day. Filtered water and plastic, moreover, are not the only materials used in production – the plant houses thousands of product labels, which are placed on the bottles once they are filled and capped. The girl featured in the film compares the myriad of labels to the layout of a fabric store – and this is hardly an exaggeration. The tour guide mentions that labels establish the “brand identity” of each bottle, but fails to point out that the same water goes into every bottle, no matter which label is placed on it.

It seems that the only real selling point for bottled water is the fact that it  eliminates unwanted chemicals, like chlorine. But even that could be achieved with an in-home water filtration system, which is better for the environment and saves money.

Near the end of the film, the girl states: “I know I’m always gonna drink bottled water for the rest of my life.” After seeing all of the plastic and energy wasted in the production of bottled water – will you? Just like IBWA’s previous film, once again, I think this one’s a no-brainer.

The Real Story of Bottled Water

Earlier this year, Annie Leonard’s short film “The Story of Bottled Water” blasted the bottled water industry for its deceptive marketing tactics.  She ruffled some feathers along the way, naturally, after suggesting that drinking bottled water is “about as cool as smoking while pregnant.”

Now, the International Bottled Water Association wants you to hear their side of the story. Not to be outdone by Leonard’s quirky little stick figures, “The Real Story of Bottled Water” uses a claymation water bottle to tell the real story of bottled water:

“The Real Story of Bottled Water” is actually correct in saying that the “demand for bottled water is consumer-driven, like any free market economy.” The video goes on to say that bottled water companies do very little advertising, and when they do advertise, they tout the health benefits of bottled water when compared with sodas. This is somewhat ironic, considering the film is an advertisement, and that bottled water offers no more health benefits than tap water.

The film’s high-pitched, clay narrator says that many people don’t like the smell of chlorine in tap water. But it refuses to mention that the taste and odor of chlorine can be removed easily with inexpensive fridge filters, pitcher filters or faucet filters.

The narrator goes on to say that bottled water is closely watched by the FDA, just like any food. The EPA ensures tap water is safe, but the film fails to mention that.

The bottled water industry is consumer-driven, so instead of criticizing bottled water manufacturers, we should be criticizing ourselves for drinking bottled water. After all, they’re not going to take money out of their pockets to tell us why bottled water is bad for the environment.

In closing, the narrator says that water bottles need to be recycled and do not belong in a landfill. It’s hard to deny that. But why not carry a reusable water bottle so that  new water bottles don’t have to be created in the first place? A lot of oil (and ironically, water) goes into manufacturing bottled water and shipping it all across the country.

Most of the film’s points can be easily refuted, but the little clay water bottle saves his best for last: “It’s a no-brainer: bottled water is among the most environmentally-friendly consumer products we have today.”

Mirriam-Webster defines “no-brainer” as “something that requires a minimum of thought.” I’d say “The Real Story of Bottled Water,” which greatly lacks the insight of Annie Leonard’s film, is just that.