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Earlier this morning we released an update to the bottled water brand rankings. Along with the new ratings, based on our independent research and ethical company report, we also updated our general ethical consumer guide to bottled water.

Industrial landscape and Sustainability Issues

Bottled water is, to put it simply, controversial. The very premise of the plastic bottle is itself problematic, with plastic pollution a source of very serious concern today. Think, for instance, of how for every six water bottles Americans use, only one makes it to the recycle bin.

REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

The bottled water industry can also be generally shady. Industrial malpractice, questionable lobbying, and overall unethical business principles are just a few things frequently evidenced by some of the most well-known brands. Faithful readers of The Good Shopping Guide will likely already know quite a lot about such realities, as we frequently comment on such issues.

For those previously unaware: In the mineral industry, the multinationals are in charge – even when it comes to brands such as Malvern and Buxton. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. But in that all the world-wide market leaders (Evian, Volvic, Perrier and San Pellegrino) are under the control of either Danone or Nestle, these two companies have faced very serious criticism in recent years.

new study has broken down just how much energy is used at each step of the manufacturing process, and the resulting figures are staggering. For instance, the study estimated that it required 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil to generate the energy needed to produce the amount of bottled water consumed in 2007 in the United States alone.

If that’s not cause for ethical reflection, how about this: A recent study from the International Bottled Water Association found that North American companies companies use 1.39 liters of water to fill a one liter bottle.

Ethical Guide

Our first and foremost recommendation is that it is always more ethical to drink tap water and to use re-usable bottles. A stainless steel re-usable bottle is one popular option. A list of interesting facts, along with references, can be found in this recent article.

However, if you find yourself out and about and in need of a drink, there are alternative Bottled Water brands which do score highly on the Ethical Company Index. The Good Shopping Guide highly recommends Highland Spring and Brecon Carreg, both of which have ethical accreditation.

For more information and for a summary of the updated rankings, see the bottled water section of The Good Shopping Guide.

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