By Matthew Yglesias
I walked into the office kitchen a bit earlier hoping to buy a Diet Coke from the vending machine and what did I see lying around but a half-full box of liter bottles of Gerolsteiner mineral water — my favorite mineral water in the world. Naturally I grabbed one and scurried back to my desk. My water connoisseurship is a relic of the extremely pretentious phase I went through in the years 1998–2001 or so. Since then I’ve mostly stopped being an extremely pretentious teenager, but damnit I still do like a good water. Which reminds me that Mark Bittman decided to round out his interesting list of kitchen items you should ditch with a supplementary blog post that propagated shameful anti-water myths:
Bottled water. It takes a lot of energy to produce a bottle to contain something that you can get by turning on the tap, and the quality is not necessarily better — and may be worse! (Buy a Brita, if you must . . . )
Look. It’s true that the quality of your bottle water “is not necessarily better” than what’s in your tap. And the quality of some vegetables you just cooked “is not necessarily better” than an Amy’s Organic Burrito. Which is why it’s better to buy good produce than bad produce, and why we have people recommending recipes and so forth. Obviously it’s dumb to buy water that’s worse than tap water (cough—Aquafina—cough) but that shouldn’t cast aspersions on the many fine waters out there. As for the energy, the salient point is this. Bottled water has a bigger environmental footprint than tap water. But bottled water has a smaller environmental footprint than do all other beverages you’ll find in a bottle or a can. Soda or apple juice or milk has all the energy costs associated with bottling water, but also involve various energy intensive agricultural processes. So if you want to be really monastic about your energy usage then, yes, you should be drinking tap water. But not tap water instead of bottled water, tap water instead of everything. If, as in my case, a delicious bottle of mineral water tempts you away from a soda, then you’re doing the environment a favor.
Last but by no means least, heavy mineral waters are a decent source of some crucial life-sustaining minerals. The US Department of Agriculture, run by dairy lobbyists and assuming that the entire American population is Vikings, thinks you should eat “to to three servings of dairy a day” in order to obtain an adequate quantity of calcium. But for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population not descended from northern European stock (or this one tribe in Kenya) it never hurts to find non-dairy sources of calcium.