What is the Best Bottled Water?
Or rather, what is NOT the best bottled water?
Let’s get honest: When we shop for bottled water, countless staged IG photos, Google ads, social media ads, and dramatic billboards of Jennifer Aniston posing so “cleverly” with her plastic bottled water have slipped into our psyche. We see countless secluded island images and celebrities being spotted carrying a particular bottled water - the imagery is everywhere and influences how we choose our bottled water. Maybe we think we can attain a certain “lifestyle,” so we end up buying more of that brand that we feel relates to us personally. But when it’s all over, it’s merely water we’re buying, an essential liquid everything on this planet needs to survive. So why do we end up falling for a particular brand of plastic bottled water that we think satisfies some need in us?
To answer at least part of this question, the beverage industry has created a facade around bottled water, and we’re all guilty of drinking it up at some point. In all actuality, it is very important for us to know how our water is sourced, how it’s treated, where it gets bottled, and what type of bottle packaging manufacturers are producing for it. The problem is that we aren’t seeing any of this information represented transparently on any of our single-use plastic water options. We are actually being sold the beautiful Hawaiian flower, medicinal symbol, or an extremely high pH number as a bottled water gimmick. We feel it’s so important to expose all of the bogus information out there that claims this bottle or that bottle is the best option when really we should be asking what’s NOT the best-bottled water and find our answers from there.
Gimmick # 1: Bottled water taste tests are...bogus
If you were to look up “bottled water,” the results are inconsistent. Blind taste tests continue to reveal that most of us cannot determine the difference between bottled water and tap water or between expensive and cheap bottled water brands. This means the only thing bottled water taste tests reveal is that most people cannot tell the difference between the various bottled waters.
Lessons from bottled water taste tests
- Taste tests do not determine what the best bottled water is, and
- These tests are, well, bogus.
A Boston University blind taste test survey revealed that only a third of taste testers could even identify which water sample was tap. How many different bottled water taste tests will it take to convince us that a big majority of us cannot tell which bottled water tastes better or which bottled water is better, period?
Gimmick #2: Single-use plastic water bottles can be 100% recyclable
By now most of us have seen or heard about the amount of dated plastics washing up on our ocean shores, some date back to 1970s even. We’re coming to realize that our “convenient” plastic beverage containers are turning out to be wasteful and a huge pollutant and everything but convenient for a healthy planet. The single-use plastic water bottles many of us buy in bulk take around 750 years to decompose, outliving our children, our children’s children, their children, their children, you get the gist. Just think, there’s really only one known species that can live this long, the Immortal Jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii. But for us humans, ~750 years means that one split second plastic choice, that took seconds to drink, will be around for another seven generations.
Yet when we buy our single-use plastic water bottles, we feel good because, hey, we recycle. And isn’t it eco-friendly to recycle plastic? Here’s the 101 on that reality. Unfortunately, our plastic recycling system is broken, not to mention most states don’t have a beverage container recycling program in place. If you’re in one of the 10 states lucky enough to have a recycling program, you still have to deal with the fact that China no longer takes our recyclable plastics, so they are currently in a grid lock. But even before China’s ban, the U.S. had a recycling rate on PET of only 30% -- recycled PET just gets downcycled into polyester fibers. The other 70% gets scrapped and off to our ocean and landfills.
So if any of us were on the fence about ditching single-use plastic bottles, the illusion of recyclability might just do it.
Gimmick #3: Drink bottled water, it’s better for you than tap
The bottled water industry has spent millions of dollars reshaping how we view tap water. Where once tap water was an agreed upon go-to source for hydration, bottled water marketing has snuck into the american psyche to convince us otherwise. Now, as we walk through store beverage isles and pass the endless cases of plastic water bottles, we can see how their marketing money is spent - selling you A BOTTLE, not really the water (that’s mostly all the same). When you talk to most people about the main reason they buy bottled water, they’ll say it’s because they’re afraid of unknown health risks in our municipal water, and that they prefer the taste of bottled water.
The truth is that we have come to trust private beverage companies that are profiting big time off of our misconceptions, rather than trusting truly regulated municipal water. This shift of trust is costing us 2,000 times the money, everytime we buy a bottle rather than turn on the tap. Heck, even fancy filtered tap water is a huge savings from bottled water.
The FDA is responsible for regulating bottled water, and the EPA oversees the health of our city drinking water. As citizens, we can look up and find the source of our drinking water, the water’s quality, and any threats the public needs to know about. While it is true that bottled water companies not only comply with EPA regulations of contaminants, they must also answer to the Food and Drug Administration -- what happens to those bottled water brands that source and bottle their water outside of the country? Who tests for contaminants? Not the EPA. And what is happening to the environment and people they take exotic water from? The unfounded fears over the quality of our tap water must be questioned if we hope to stop lining pockets of greedy beverage and oil companies. It’s time you ask, what are you really being sold?
Gimmick #4: pH balanced and alkaline water
There has been much worry over how acidic our diets are, and although this might be true, we must not self-medicate with water with a high pH (alkaline water). It is always essential to consult a physician if we lack nutrients. However, it’s important to understand that the human body is the healthiest when in a generally neutral state, which means water at a balanced pH of 7.5. Anything much lower than that, and we risk our bodies becoming too acidic, going too high, and we risk our bodies being in a basic state. It doesn’t matter your workouts or activity level; always strive for balanced water and pH.
Don’t be so basic. The majority of us cannot tell the difference between municipal water, mountain spring water, water from exotic islands, or basic carbon-filtered water. The best thing to remember is to drink purified, balanced water.
Gimmick #5: Packaging
We all love a beautifully designed beverage bottle, especially one that reminds you of that exotic vacation you’ve been meaning to take. Many bottled water companies design their bottles to take us on an experience -- whether that be a tropical island adventure, a medicinal bottled water savior for those high-impact workouts, or a pristine fresh mountain spring. Most bottled water packaging doesn’t match the reality these companies are trying to convey. Bottled water packing, at worst, is a plastic pollution facade; at best (when it’s not plastic), it is a solution to our plastic crisis. Be logical when looking at packaging and seek water from truly reusable and recyclable bottles - look beyond the label. Taste testers who drank from bottled water with labels removed were found to dislike the taste of the water when bottles were reduced to their crinkly, cheap, label-free, single-use plastic reality.
Reusability in place of single-use plastic bottles.
One of the areas bottled water taste tests barely touch on, if they ever do, is the actual packaging of the bottled water. We find single-use plastic pollution all over our streets, beaches, lakes, and oceans. Now, we are finding microplastics in our beverages and food sources, which may be toxic to our human bodies and our planet. When choosing bottled water, consider how the packaging directly relates to your health and how long the plants, animals, and humans on our beautiful planet will be able to exist based on your choice.
At the moment, there are only a few genuinely sustainable options to choose from, but it’s important to make those choices when they’re on our shelves. This is precisely why PATH was created: to disrupt the beverage industry and be a voice for better packaging solutions. It’s one planet, and making changes here takes a collective effort. We can have convenience and purified water without feeling guilty or at risk of poisoning our bodies with harmful single-use plastic packaging. Packaging is such a big part of determining the best bottled water.
Gimmick #6: Where’s your water from?
We all care about drinking the best and healthiest beverages, especially when it comes to water. Now we know we must factor in finding the best packaging that will not harm our bodies or our precious earth. Where water is sourced is also extremely important because over half of the bottled water on our shelves is either spring water or municipal water, and we are paying high prices for something very simple: water.
Most people are surprised to discover how many bottled water brands are tap water. Why wouldn’t we be surprised our water is tap water when the bottle paints a different picture? We have been told to be wary of municipal water when most bottled water is purified tap water. Most bottled water brands use other filtering processes ranging from a basic carbon filtration system to intricate reverse osmosis systems. So when we drink water out of the tap at home, we are basically drinking most bottled water brands. The exception is that with plastic bottled water, we are also ingesting petro-based microplastics that might be causing serious harm to our health. Not to mention the time plastic bottles decompose and the destruction they create in the interim.
We always suggest that you filter your water at home if you want the best of both worlds. It’s less waste, less money, and is your healthiest solution to hydrating. If you’re out and about, there are new options that are sprouting up, like eh hem, PATHWATER! We are currently the only purified water in a bottle designed to be infinitely reusable and 100% recyclable.
So, what have we all learned about, which is the best bottled water? We should consider skipping the plastic packaging when we hydrate. The beverage industry has campaigned with misinformation and convinced us that convenience only comes in a petroleum-based form of single-use plastic. NOT TRUE; reality is proving this wrong. When we do need water on the run, it’s best to make sure we’re not just buying a gimmick that’s really misleading and ultimately unhealthy. We want balanced, purified water and, most importantly, in a reusable bottle that doesn’t have a short, pathetic, 5-minute life and then pollutes the planet for 750+ years. While throw-away options are plentiful, we must seek alternatives and avoid single-use plastic water bottles at all costs. We deserve better, our planet deserves better, and future generations deserve so much better.
If you want a better bottled water option, we are revolutionizing stores near you. You can find our store locator here. You can also order your reusable bottles directly from us here. If you are looking to get your school, home, or work to ban single-use plastic bottled water and replace it with PATH we’d love to spread our mission of reusability; give us a shout.
Make sure to follow us on Instagram & tag @pathwater #refillit to join the conversation!