Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

Don't be fooled by Fijian water
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The Independent Online

This crazy thirst for designer water is having a devastating environmental impact because of the huge resources needed to extract it from the ground, package it and ship it round the world. Some 22million tons of bottled water are transported each year between countries, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

I reckon the stuff that comes out of my wonderful reverse-osmosis filter unit beneath my sink is far superior. It's pure, it's cheap, and removes the need to lug crates of water into my flat. Perhaps I should bottle it. I reckon "Sloane Square Spring Water" would rocket off the shelves.

But I've had bad experiences with Fijian water so I'm particularly prejudiced against it. A few years ago when I was a gullible, easily-influenced person I signed up to "fire-walk round the world" on a Tony Robbins motivational course. I ended up in Fiji, sharing a room with a deranged American heiress (I know, I thought we'd have a lot in common too) who became increasingly peculiar as the week went on. The fire-walking sent her over the edge and the Fijian CID were posted outside our room to prevent her from drowning.

Even more alarming were the endless seminars during which we were kept "hydrated" with bottles of "oxygenated" penta water (another ludicrously over-hyped elixir, air freighted from California) and endless bottles of Fiji Water - out of the same bottles you see in Waitrose. It was poured from these plastic bottles into plastic cups, which we drank from once before they were thrown away in vast plastic bags.

I spent a disagreeable week jumping into rivers full of poisonous fish to learn to "trust the universe" and listening to my fellow fire-walkers rave about "swimming with Tony", like he was some sort of magic dolphin. But all the time I was tormented by the hideous thought that we were poisoning Fijian landfill sites with festering plastic bottles and cups which would take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Tentative suggestions that we keep our cups with us to be refilled were met with incredulous looks by our "trainer", a brainwashed Robbins acolyte who was trying to keep our team in order.

I hoped to be distracted from our waste mountain when Stormin' Norman, the Gulf War veteran, jetted in to give us a pep talk. Strutting onto the stage, squeezed into a pair of tight black jeans (perhaps he was as waterlogged as we were), accompanied by thrilling Top Gun footage of swooping planes, he waited to take questions from the adoring audience.

"If Kuwait had exported potatoes, not oil, would we have invaded?" I piped up from the back. Unsatisfied by his waffle about human rights in Kuwait I went for my Richard Gere moment. "But what about Tibet? The human rights abuses there are far worse!" I cried, before being arm-wrestled to my seat by my trainer and force-fed a bottle of Fiji Water. "Honey you need to re-hydrate!"

It was downhill from there, really. So don't get me started on Fiji (overrated, mosquito-ridden place - no letters please) or its water. Save yourself some air miles and leave Fijian water for the Fijians. They need all the silica they can get.

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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