Leading article: Let's cap bottled water

Share

Our report on the environmental costs of bottling, transporting and marketing drinking water exposes a dilemma for socially responsible consumers. It costs thousands of times more to produce bottled water than tap water, yet, in the industrialised world, this is no safer or healthier. Nor are the costs only financial - there is the impact on the environment of transporting an abundant natural resource, usually by lorry, and the use of millions of plastic bottles.

Yet the fashion for bottled water is only one of the most obvious of the problems of reconciling advanced capitalism with green priorities. At one level, most people are conscious of the unsustainability of flying fresh flowers and baby sweetcorn thousands of miles. At another level, we are happy to enjoy the good things in life that were once the prerogative of the super-rich. How to strike a better, and better-informed, balance between the two is one of the questions to which this newspaper is committed to finding answers.

This requires an open mind and a willingness to confront awkward political realities. We have to challenge some conventional wisdoms, one of the classic examples being the consensus that people should recycle more rubbish. British greens are fond of comparing this country's level of recycling unfavourably with that of Germany. Yet all that proves is that Germany is a more socially disciplined society. In many cases the environmental benefits of recycling are outweighed by the energy used, while the economics of plastics recycling will make sense only when green taxes on petroleum products make the raw material more expensive.

We recognise, too, the electoral obstacles to higher gas and electricity prices in this country, which are the most effective means of saving energy. The headlines generated by British Gas's plans for a 25 per cent price rise would be as nothing if the rise were imposed by politicians in the form of tax. Similarly, we go some way with the Prime Minister in his declaration last week that there is no point in simply "preventing British people getting on planes", because effective action to suppress the growth of air travel would require global cooperation. But Tony Blair suffers an appalling failure of ambition in describing the prospect of any such cooperation as "unrealistic". He cites the fact that the new Airbus is 30 per cent more fuel-efficient, but it is simply not good enough to rely on technological fixes to deal with the problem.

We hope that David Cameron and Chris Huhne, the two new green kids on the block, will come up with the practical policies to change the fiscal incentives for all consumers, green or otherwise, rather than simply dismissing the prospect as "unrealistic".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee