If someone told me that a well-known environmental group co-founded by an environmental
lawyer with a name that evokes 'American royalty' was selling bottled water to fund its projects, I'd say, "No such group would be stupid enough to do that. I mean, that's like a church running a brothel to make money to support its mission, justifying it with the 'ends justify the means' argument."
Okay, the church-brothel analogy might be a bit extreme, but you catch my drift - an organization that does good works does something counter to its core principles to make money to support its good works.
I was thus quite amazed when I learned that the organization co-founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance, is selling Keeper Springs bottled water, of which Kennedy is Chairman of the Board. All profits are donated to various Waterkeeper Alliance projects. Keeper Springs bottled water is a product of Tear of the Clouds LLC.
Yes, Keeper Springs bottled water may be good for worthwhile projects, but it's not good for the environment. Do I need to recount the negative aspects of bottled water? Plastic bottles. Expense. Transportation costs and GHG emissions. Undermining support for public water supply systems. And so on.
It also sends a bad message to Waterkeeper Alliance supporters and fellow travelers: buy something that's not particularly environmentally friendly, and we'll use the profits for something good.
In the world of for-profit organizations that what's called 'greenwashing'. But remember - Keeper Springs does donate all its profits to worthy causes.
The website says that Keeper Springs bottles are made of at least 50% recycled PET (that's good) and the water is spring water. From where? No information. But there is a water analysis, and it suggests the water is from California. From where? No information.
Water analysis: Download KS_BWFA
It's funny, but in January 2008, at a Waterkeeper fundraiser in Banff, Kennedy said that it is not a good idea for Canada to sell bottled water (Edmonton Journal, 18 January 2008).
But it's all right for his group to sell bottled water - after all, in his case, it does help the environment.
If the Waterkeeper Alliance wants to make some money to support environmental projects and public water supply systems, why not promote and sell environmentally-friendly water bottles?
That sure is a lot better than selling bottled water, especially for a group that claims to be working for clean water, a lot of which serves as....drinking water! Duhh....
Note added on 25 August 2012: In Elizabeth Royte's comment, she states that, as of 2007, the water was bottled in Vermont. I assumed California because of the following statement on the water analysis:
Our product has been thoroughly tested in accordance with federal and California law. Our bottled water is a food product and can not be sold unless it meets the standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Public Health.
This statement suggests to me that the water comes from California and that they are not just using California standards.
Note added on 26 August 2012: In response to my email inquiry here is what I promptly (<24 hours) received from Michael Hoare at Keeper Springs:
Thank you very much for your interest in Keeper Springs Natural Spring Waters. We just updated our website and I think we overlooked adding that piece. Its certainly available on every bottled sold.
Yes, we do have two facilities, one on the West coast and one on the East coast.
On the East coast we originally did bottle in Vermont, but our bottler went out of business. Currently we bottle in Pennsylvania. We use six different springs so that we are not over drawing from any source. As you know at different times of the year, the need for spring water increases and levels at the source can change.
On the West coast we use a source in Cabazon CA [Note added: I believe this plant is owned by Nestle Waters North America]. We are conscious of our carbon footprint and try to have a spring within a certain radius of where we are sold so that we can keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.
I hope this answers your questions, feel free to write back if I didn’t answer all your questions.
Regardless of where it's bottled, it's a bad idea.
"Enough. Man is capable of reform once presented with the facts, and the fact is that bottling water and shipping it is a big waste of fuel, so stop already. The water that comes to your house through a pipe is good enough, and maybe better." -- Garrsion Keillor, Salt Lake Tribune, 29 September 2007