The Story of Bottled Water…

by Narelle Webber on Monday, 12 November 2012

Many people around the world have no access to safe drinking water. Image Source:

In Sydney, I drink water from the tap. It’s clean, safe, cheap, palatable and readily available. In fact, I am one of about 22.6 million Australians that are very fortunate to be able to do so.  Compare that to one in every six human beings worldwide that have no access to clean water within a kilometer of their homes.

So why is it that each year Australians spend more than half a billion dollars a year on bottled water? There are billions of people on our planet that live without clean and accessible water, so it makes no sense morally, environmentally or financially, that people would choose to pay for water and then dispose of millions of tonnes of plastic that ends up in landfill and in our oceans.  Only about a fraction of plastic water bottles get recycled in Australia; it is better not to buy plastic water bottles in the first place.

Some of our alumni would remember watching a short video on their ISV volunteer project called ‘The Story of Stuff’ about Western society’s consumer habits. Many of our project leaders like to show it to spark a discussion on consumerism, and relating this to how we can live more sustainably on our planet by consuming wisely, and consuming less overall.

It makes no sense that people would choose to pay for water then dispose of millions of tonnes of plastic that ends up in land fill and in our oceans.

On the Story of Stuff’s website there’s a short clip about bottled water (The Story of Bottled Water), which I highly recommend you watch.  The concept is simple, and while it’s directed at North America, it’s applicable for Australia and and most first world countries where tap water is totally healthy for consumption.

One of ISV’s responsible travel ethics is to avoid purchasing water in small volume disposable plastic containers and drink tap water when it’s safe to do so.  On our programs we strongly recommend that participants bring a large (around 1 liter) refillable water bottle that they can use their entire trip.

In the Dominican Republic and Thailand, the water is not safe to drink from a tap, so it’s a little more challenging to avoid purchasing bottled water; however I do know that our staff will indicate appropriate refilling stations when possible.  Also, a great idea is to share larger bottles (e.g. 5-10 liter) between a few people, to save on plastic that way.

Something really great to share – longtime friends of ISV in Thailand, the Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures has created an i-phone App where you can access water vending machines around the city. ISV alumni traveling to Thailand should download it for sure!

Most plastic water bottles don’t get recycled. They end up in landfill or in our oceans where they pollute and endanger marine life.

To make a difference, all you need is a refillable drink bottle and we can each save countless tonnes of plastic waste going into our oceans or our landfill.  Small changes count when everyone does them.

We can be conscious travelers together and educate others!

To learn more about ISV, our programs and responsible travel principles visit our website:


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