March 11, 2014

A Yogi’s Thoughts on Bottled Water. ~ Theresa Polley

Water Bottle

Living in a place that has almost limitless access to clean drinking water is an incredible thing.

For those of us living in areas with instant access to such a basic necessity, this doesn’t really seem like a big deal. However, it might surprise you to know that almost one billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. That’s almost one in nine people. The world water crisis has been a struggle for decades, so it’s certainly nothing new. What is new, though, is our awareness of the issue at hand. It is incredible to be living in a time in which groundbreaking solutions are making it possible to begin solving an issue that has plagued the world for centuries.

If each of us makes a few small changes in our daily life, it can add up to a huge change for our planet. By giving up our dependence on non-reusable water bottles, we can stop wasting water and energy, and work toward decreasing our landfills.

On our yogic journey of enlightenment, do we really want to arrive at the pinnacle of meeting ourselves with an obscenely priced bottle of water clutched to our chest? Aware of the problem at hand, but too “busy” or “comfortable” to take part in the solution? If guilt is beginning to surface, don’t worry. We’re all still learning here. The best thing about feeling guilt is the awareness it brings up, which can ultimately lead to change. If we let it, that is.

The Price We Pay for Bottled Water

The fact that Americans alone spend $11.8 billion (yes, billion) a year on bottled water seems a bit… absurd. Especially when that water is so often the same water that comes out of the tap. Granted, sometimes an extra filter or distilling process is somewhere in there, but is it really worth the 2000% plus markup price? The bottled water companies must be laughing all the way to the bank! Those clever marketing gurus, sitting back in their reclining leather chairs as they watch their bank accounts grow. Why yes, they made us believe that the water coming out of the tap, which is highly regulated by the EPA, thanks to the Safe Water Drinking Act, is somehow inferior to the bottled magic elixir served in petroleum based plastic with a fancy label.These magic elixirs come with very lax FDA regulations, and 60 to 70% of them aren’t regulated at all.

It’s been estimated that we pay anywhere from 240 to 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water compared to tap. Tapping, transporting, bottling, and recycling or landfill costs may or may not be included in that mark-up. It is estimated that some 2 million tons of bottles end up in landfills, and the cost of disposing of them is $70 million. Seems like a big gulp of petroleum products right along with that refreshing bottle of water.

In 2011, bottled water consumption was at an all-time high in the United States. We used an estimated 222 bottles of water per person, and spent a collective $21.7 billion on the modern day convenience that flows out of our tap for relative pennies. It seems crazy that we would spend so much on this, especially when it is estimated that 40% of bottled water comes from public water supplies. Basically we’re drinking someone else’s tap water that has been bottled.

In most cases, the FDA rules governing bottled water are weaker than the EPA standards governing our city’s tap water. This means that what we drink out of the bottle could be contaminated with bacteria, mildew, hazardous waste and more. According to FDA guidelines, this is completely acceptable.

Water and Our Yoga Practice

With this knowledge, perhaps we can look at bottled water a little differently. If convincing is still needed, let’s look a bit closer at our yoga “practice”. As yogis, we may or may not be living the mindfulness of yoga in multiple aspects of our daily lives.

Living ethically is one of the fundamentals of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The following practices, from Yoga Sutra ll.3, prevent us from achieving samadhi, or divine consciousness.


If we have been blissfully unaware of the water bottle industry and the hell on earth they have created, we need only to see the above.


This looks and smells like entitlement, such as “I don’t need to worry about finding my refillable water bottle. I’m in a hurry, and they sell those lovely bottles of #$@% water at the studio.”


If we’ve been buying our case of bottled water from the big box store for practically our entire life, and we jones for the cool, refreshing taste of water from the Alps in order to take our practice to the next level, there’s some attachment there. The water may or may not be from the Alps, but what does it cost the planet to get it to us?


If the thought of using tap water as a beverage makes us run screaming from the room, (it smells a little funny from time to time, not to mention that funky taste), then we might want to invest some time into researching the facts. Or even buy one of those not-so-fancy water filtration pitchers. They are also available at the local box store, and allow us to)produce our own filtered water.

Something surprising to me is the number of fellow yogis toting an “insert-brand-name-here” bottle of water, as opposed to a refillable one. Possibly more surprising are the studios that sell bottled water. As a business owner I get it; every cent counts. But we’re literally talking cents here for profit. And at what cost? Is it really worth that profit to encourage the sale of something that is so detrimental to our planet? Maybe it’s a lack of awareness, maybe it’s a perspective of convenience, or possibly it is simple ignorance.

No matter what it the cause may be, we can do something to make the situation better. We can lean into the discomfort, breathe, and discover awareness that we never knew existed, much like our yoga practice. If your studio is still selling water bottles, share this article with them. In the long run, it will benefit all of us.

Change is a Good Thing

Do we want to be in the same category as those who water their sidewalk in the process of keeping their grass green in 100 degree Texas heat? Or those who wash each dish and piece of silverware with the water stream at full force, walking around the kitchen simultaneously, water still running? I am the person that runs from the other room, in someone else’s house, to turn off the water. Total water freak, I know. But seriously, when did we forget that water is a non-renewable resource? Oh, the horrors of inconvenience.

If the water running out of your tap is toxic, please disregard this plea. Check your water source to make sure. If it’s not, let’s consider stepping outside of our comfort zones, to give the world a gift that’s bigger than us, a gift that will keep giving to the generations to come. Just say no to bottled water. Maybe we’re paying for the name, or the convenience, or maybe we just get tired lugging around one of those big ole refillable water bottles. No matter what our stance, we can make a change and join in this pledge. Saying no to the corporate giants, getting fat off of our inherent laziness. Saying no to flooding the backyards of innocent countries with mounds of plastic water bottles. Saying no to water waste as a whole.

How will this generation be remembered in the history books? Hopefully not as being too self-absorbed to stop the waste of water by taking a few small steps. Some very small, and not all that inconvenient, steps. I’m not willing to waste the Earth’s resources another moment. Please join me.

Not just one special day. Not just a month or a year. How about for a lifetime? Teaching our children and our grandchildren that we are all in this together. That a drop of water is a very precious resource indeed.

Gandhi’s wisdom is always appropriate.  “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let it begin in your home, your community, your world…with you.

Ways to Implement the Change

1. Use a reusable water bottle.

2. Take shorter showers, or shut the water off when you’re sudsing up. See how much water you’re using by closing the drain.

3. Wash dishes by hand with a single sink of sudsy water, rinsing in a single sink of fresh water.

4. Do some water research—there is always something new to learn.


The Water Crisis

Water Day

My Charity: Water

Bottled Water Statistics

Because Water

Safe Drinking Water Act

Local Drinking Water

Natural Resources Defense Council

World Watch Institute

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Editorial Assistant: Chrissy Tustison/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Karen O’D via Flickr

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