exploring possibilities for an engaging and productive workplace

In support of Blog Action Day this inaugural post will explore bottled water at work.

As an American I enjoy access to safe drinking water at home, at work, and most everywhere I go. On a global scale we are privileged. Many do not enjoy this basic human right. Despite this privilege, we spend billions on bottled water, which is often just re-packaged tap water. These bottles fill our landfills, litter our communities, and leach chemicals into our bodies while being sold to us at a huge mark-up. Some institutions and corporations are standing up to bottled water; contributing to social and environmental change that employees can be proud of.

San Francisco's mayor declared a ban on purchases of bottled water for employees, then Seattle's mayor did the same. Now several cities across the US have initiatives to promote tap water. Universities like UC Berkley and Seattle University have banned bottled water on campus. Large employers in the Oakland-Berkley areas, like CH2MHill and Clorox, have began encouraging use of tap water and have stopped providing bottled water for company meetings and events. Cities, universities, and company's are all employers who have employees effected by these decisions. What's your company's stance on bottled water?

Admittedly, I don't like being told what to do and I can see how a ban on purchasing bottled water could be annoying. Yet, there's something redeeming about this idea. Tap water is healthier for me, my co-workers, my community, the global community, and the environment. It also happens to be significantly less expensive than bottled water. I like when my company is smart about their finances. I like when my company takes a stance that encourages me to do something not for myself or for the company, but for something larger. More selfishly, cutting the cost of bottled water makes sense and doesn't inconvenience me.

As someone who's long avoided bottled water, its sometimes hard to remember why the stuff is so popular. I think it comes down to convenience, ease, and the fact that it's everywhere. With bottled water at work, you don't have to find a cup or clean the dirty one from your desk. Yet it doesn't take much effort to switch, especially if your friends are doing it too.

Generally people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I've had co-workers start their own initiatives like the "mug club" to encourage re-usable dishes at work. I love how these type of ideas bring us together with the happy side-effect of a more sustainable workplace. I'm also pretty sure these bottom-up initiatives inspire employee engagement, increase productivity, and improve retention rates. But these are topics for another day...

For more information on the impacts of bottled water, check out the documentary Tapped or the Story of Bottled Water.

3 responses to "The Business of Bottled Water"

  1. great post! i've switched from plastic bottled water to having my own reusable water bottle. however, those aren't usable forever either...it's unfortunate that most bottles aren't completely recyclable yet (not forgetting the new reusable ice cups either).

    so, does filtering water with britta or a refrigerated system really do much good?


  2. Courtney, thanks for commenting. I hope the people around you are inspired to ditch their bottled water too. Re-useable mugs are the way to go.

    About water filters, I found this on consumer reports website, maybe it can answer your question?



  3. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Choose the right one for your health.

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