Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

Eco-chic? Or cheap chic?

Channel Cameron Diaz, Vogue’s “Queen of Green?” Scour Martha Stewart for money-saving wedding tips?

Tough call, and now you don’t have to make it.

Not, at least, when you’re picking up a bottle of water for the drink-holder of your Prius/Mini/Trek Madone.

Environmental Working Group’s research staff has just released a bottled water scorecard that grades close to 200 brands for labels or websites that disclose their sources, treatment methods and results of contaminant testing. (No matter what words the ads use – “pure,” “sparkling,” “essential,” no water is completely free of trace pollutants.)

Well, guess what. A bunch of humble, big-box-store, mass-market brands like Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Choice (B), Nestlé’s Pure Life (B) and Ozarka (B), and Walgreens (C) scored best for disclosure AND advanced treatment.

Pricey Perrier and S.Pellegrino scored Fs. These high-end brands’ labels and websites, our researchers found, were especially opaque. Elite Evian rated a C – good info on testing and source, partial data on purification method and no clue on advance treatment.

I keep thinking about the ad campaign, featuring leggy Euro supermodels.

“Hi, I’m Gisele. Where was I last week? I’ll never tell. Neither will my Perrier.”

“Kate here. Can you keep a secret? My Pellegrino can.”

Mystery can be alluring, but here at EWG, we’re old school when it comes to consumer products that make dazzling profits for big corporations like Nestlé, which produces Perrier and Pellegrino, and Coca-Cola, which owns Evian. We’re all about people’s right to know, so we investigate, the way newspapers used to. Newspapers. They were big bundles of paper with a lot of black printing…

Silliest bottled water: Aquamantra. It scored an F for zero testing info, zero purification info and an ad claim that the affirmative mantras on the label “actually change the molecular structure of the water, and most definitely change the flavor of the water.”

“Hi, I’m Claudia. When I want lychee-flavored water, I just chant for it.”

We find it particularly interesting that Sam’s Choice turns out to be one of the more consumer-friendly labels. That squares with Wal-Mart’s new eco-labeling program that aims to rate products for “sustainability.”

Sustainability — that’s a term environmentalists, lawyers, philosophers and students of modern culture struggle to define. We sure hope Wal-Mart’s initiative is true green, not a greenwash, and amounts to a net plus for the planet. We’ll be doing the numbers later.

But it’s a good idea if it works. We’re all for eco-labeling, as long as it’s solid, checkable and makes sense in the bigger scheme of things.

That’s why no bottled water brand aced the EWG report. Grade A goes only to filtered tap water, because municipal water utilities make extensive disclosures and because their product arrives in pipes, not little plastic bottles that clog the ocean and landfills. Like Mama said, green is as green does.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, Americans throw away 60 million bottles a day.

DIY chic is hot. So invest in a decent filtration system and do your own tap water bottling with a reusable BPA-free bottle. Many of them have fashion-forward designs and cool colors.

What are your favorite haute luxe, yet cleverly thrifty ideas for greening, really, our water and the rest of our stuff? We’d love to hear from you and also on Huffington Post.


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