Bottled water, as an idea and as a reality, is ridiculous. I know this. So does everyone else.
And yet, there are several empty and full plastic bottles of water in my home and the place where I work.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the bottled water industry, which seems to be insanely profitable despite the fact that they're packaging something that any of us could get for free. So where's the value added? Why buy?
I think there are two answers: convenience and esteem. It's easier to pop into a 7-Eleven, buy a bottle, and carry it with us than to have an empty container that we must fill from a publicly available source. And we do feel like we're spoiling ourselves, in a good way. It's a minuscule psychological reward we treat ourselves with for good behavior.
The "Unbottled Movement" has a long uphill battle ahead of it, because the power of social marketing, in the name of environmental sustainability, is very weak compared to the net benefit to each individual. It's a liquid tragedy of the commons. And the industry itself is large enough that any legislation designed to curb the advance of bottled water is unlikely to be implemented or very effective.
So how to push back? I'd like to see more people standing up in their communities and asking their mayors for more drinking fountains. If publicly available water, free of charge, is readily available, people are less likely to buy a bottle.
I'd like to see the manufacturers of drinking fountains push models that make filling a water bottle easier. Have you ever tilted a bottle with a tiny mouth over a traditional drinking fountain and attempted to fill it from that tiny stream with an arc of three inches? It's hard to do. There should be a separate spout on the side of all drinking fountains that allow you to fill a bottle without doing that inconvenient dance.
I'd like to drink tap water, make it known without having to explicitly tell people, and not have to appear pious in the process. Deciding to forgo bottled water in favor of tap water is an invisible activity, and the only way to make it known is by telling other people that you're doing it. This almost always comes off as righteous indignation, which is very unbecoming behavior for most of us.
Lastly, I think finding a good use for all that extra plastic helps. I think this town in Lithuania and the artist they commissioned are brilliant.