Tap Water Rules

In my mind, the ultimate symbol of our throw away culture is bottled water. The fact that companies can take something that is already delivered to our homes for practically free, bottle it, put a fancy label on it, ship it across the country (or around the world), and charge good money for it, is a real hat-trick. There’s nothing magical though, about the amount of energy consumed and the amount of waste created to sustain this practice. Consider the following:

  • There is no assurance that bottled water is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is tap water in a bottle — sometimes further treated, sometimes not.
  • Approximately 22 percent of the bottled water brands tested by the Natural Resources Defense Council contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above state health limits.
  • In 2006, the equivalent of 2 billion (that’s illion with a “B”) half-liter bottles of water were shipped to U.S. ports, creating thousands of tons of global warming pollution and other air pollution.
  • Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil — enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year — are used to make disposable plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns even more oil.
  • Most bottled water comes in recyclable PET plastic bottles, but only about 13 percent of the bottles are recycled. In 2005, 2 million tons of plastic water bottles ended up in landfills.

Fortunately we’re seeing more people using refillable bottles such as those from Klean Kanteen, Sigg, and Nalgene. We’re also seeing more companies offering refillable bottles to promote their business and establish their green-cred (some may call this “greenwashing”, but hey, if it raises awareness, I’m all for it).

Never one to be out of the loop on these matters, Swobo, maker of urban bikes and bike clothing, has introduced a new BPA, DEHA, and DEHP-free water-bottle-with-a-twist called the Tap Water I. Here’s the scoop:

The Swobo Message in a Bottle Project attempts to take the mundane, static, get in line behind everybody else, somewhat landfill doomed product offering of a water bottle, and make it a tool for a greater discussion or action.

Tap Water Rules is a series within the project, which allows you to use the water bottle as it’s intended, and then when you’re done with it, please add the appropriate postage and send your message to the address provided on the front of the bottle. The message is conveniently printed on the other side. Join us in trying to broadcast our belief that tap water does in fact rule, and bottled water is in fact, a big waste. Thanks for listening.

Printed on one side of the bottle is a letter to Nestle Waters North America expressing the bottle owner’s disapproval of bottled water. On the other side is a mailing panel on which the appropriate postage can be placed for sending the entire water bottle to Nestle (no liquids please).

I’m sure the point isn’t so much to actually send the bottle to Nestle (hopefully you’ll just keep using it), but the Tap Water I should spark some interesting conversations and raise awareness if nothing else. Oh yeah, and it looks like a pretty nice bottle too.

Tap Water I

20 Responses to “Tap Water Rules”

  • beth h says:

    Cute little alternative advertising trick from Swobo.
    The bottle, however, is brought to you by California Springs, who now make ALL of their plastic bike bottles with the new, alphabet-soup-free material — and they are popping up at various bike shops (including, well, ours). I smell a trend.

  • bongobike says:

    I too think tap water is just fine. It’s what I drink 99% of the time. But obviously, the quality varies depending on where you live. Some people may be better off drinking bottled water, especially if you live in places like New Orleans, which takes its water from that national sewer, the Mississippi river, and other places with high levels of chemical contaminants.

  • Jared says:

    If Swobo were to sell these at-cost then I’d be open to their message. But no, this is just another one of their clever marketing tricks. If you actually mail a bottle to Nestle you know they’re just going to throw it away in the mail room..

  • Greg says:

    bongobike, the tap water is still subject to EPA standards (which are stricter than FDA standards, which is what applies to bottled water). If you’re still worried about it, a reverse osmosis filter is still better than buying bottled water.

    Alan, I still prefer the Kleen Kanteen. Sure it’s great that we can get plastic bottles that are made without chemicals that are known to leach into the contents and that possibly have biological effects. However, rational or not, I have a feeling that there’s always going to be something used in the process that we will discover is leaching out more than we thought and is also bad for you.

  • Alan says:


    I too am a Klean Kanteen fan (we have a whole cupboard full of them for the family).

  • Alan says:


    Sure, it’s marketing, but like I mentioned on the OP, if it brings attention to an important issue,I’m all for it. I don’t think Swobo is actually hoping to make much money selling water bottles; their business is bikes and clothing. Like they said:

    “The Swobo Message in a Bottle Project attempts to take the mundane, static, get in line behind everybody else, somewhat landfill doomed product offering of a water bottle, and make it a tool for a greater discussion or action.”

    “Greater discussion or action” being the point, I think.


  • Duncan Watson says:

    I am a tap water fan. Though I used to live in Northern NJ and the tap water there is not good, my wife and I got sick in the first few months there before we filtered our water. The source of that water is the Hudson River so I can see why it is so nasty.

    But everywhere else I have lived has excellent tap water, Long Island, Blacksburg VA, Portland OR, Munich, Seattle, Maine.

    I don’t like bottled water, it is a huge ripoff as well as a poor service to society.

  • Alan says:


    “I don’t like bottled water, it is a huge ripoff as well as a poor service to society.”

    That pretty much says it. :-)

  • Lush says:

    Yes, but the sheeple love the cool packaging of bottled water. ;-) And remember kids, Evian spelled backwards is Naive.

    Good post.

  • Greg says:

    The new bottled water thing is “electrolyte-enhanced” water. This is just tap water with some sodium/potassium thrown into it. Sigh.

  • andy parmentier says:

    10% of plastic produced ends up in the ocean. henry ford made car parts from soybeans. now there is technology to make biofuel from algae. (grows in the ocean)
    stop me if you don’t like my non-sequitur driving. the humongous island of plastic in the pacific
    grows every year. plastic hits a plateau in it’s breakdown cycle, remaining as stubbornly large enough particles, to be ingested by filter feeders

  • andy parmentier says:

    message in a bottle. stop. message on a bottle. go. stop and go driving.

  • Christina says:

    I’ve stopped drinking bottled water… but I prefer my environmentalism without the side of smugness.

  • Alan says:


    So often when someone tries to talk about the environment and “doin’ the right thing”, a critic has to pull out the smugness card. Again, it’s about conversation, communication, and awareness.

  • andy parmentier says:

    bottleneck traffic vs. bottlenose dolphin

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I’ve read about some of these “islands” of plastic in the Pacific. I think there are two of them–both about the size of Texas. As another poster mentioned, the plastic is broken into tiny particles that persist forever. There’s plenty of bigger stuff, too. If it truly biodegraded, we’d be in better shape, but synthetics are tough. DDT is so persistent that it can be found in animal life in Antarctica–amazing.

    As far as the planet is concerned, I guess the sooner we run out of oil (and coal) the better. Still, I like my chain lube and nifty tires!


  • Greg says:

    In only 35 or so years, we have found bacteria evolved to eat nylon. Quite possible that the bottoms of landfills are evolutionary labs cooking up all sorts of fun critters for the future. It may take thousands or millions of years longer than the human race will be around, but the biosphere will adapt to our junk somehow. In the meantime, it would be nice if we’d stop junking up our home.

  • Allison says:

    Well said! I work for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and I’m always telling people how hard people are working to ensure their tap water is safe. In fact, National Drinking Water Week just took place and the theme was “Take Back The Tap.”

  • andy parmentier says:

    biofuels and bioplastics. stuff that breaks down. i’m breaking down right now, and admitting that i’ve been a smug grump.

    -al j.

  • Daniel says:

    I work for Filters Fast and, as the name suggests, we are a distributor for all sorts of water filtration devices. I, too, am a huge fan of (filtered) tap water, and do everything I can to convince others of tap water’s superiority to its bottled brethren.

    I had a similar idea to Swobo that involved people sending either old bottles or old filters for us to recycle. In turn, we would provide them a discount.

    In the end, I came to the conclusion that shipping said items just to have me recycle them probably ran contrarian to the cause. But, as Alan pointed out, campaigns such as this do indeed provoke greater discussion and awareness. That should be applauded, however misguided it is.

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