Members of The Park Slope Food Coop voted at the Coop’s general meeting to discontinue selling bottled water. The measure passed by an overwhelming margin.
Asked why a retail grocery business would take the seemingly counterintuitive step of not selling an in-demand and money-making item, Coop General Manager Joe Holtz said, “Over the last two years, several Coop members initiated an effective educational campaign through articles and letters in our bi-weekly newsletter. Over that time, we saw that the Coop was selling less bottled water. So I think our environmentally aware members were ready to take the step. And the vote confirmed that. We only had one vote opposed.”
The measure’s presenters pointed out the political and environmental consequences of allowing a crucial public resource to be exploited for profit by giant transnational corporations.
Susan Metz discussed “the tragic environmental, economic, health, and political consequences of collaborating with corporate elites who define the planet’s water as a commodity in order to claim that they own it. Then, they use sophisticated marketing hype so that they can sell it back to people and make tremendous profits.”
“A major problem,” stated Lew Friedman, “is that plastic bottles are produced and transported using oil. Both those processes cause pollution, and cause greenhouse gases — the primary cause of global warming.”
David Barouh discussed health concerns. “Pharmaceutical traces have been found in surface and groundwater sources that supply both tap water systems and bottled waters. It’s not known whether traces in the parts per billion or trillion are harmful to humans, but bottled water is not a refuge from them. Tap water is regulated more rigorously than bottled water. And you can ensure the purity of water more cheaply and without the adverse consequences we’ve talked about with a water filter.”
The Coop sells water filters ranging from basic Brita filters to recently added high-end Doulton’s. The Coop also sells reusable stainless steel bottles in three sizes.
Among the literature available at the meeting was a handout listing municipal initiatives to reemphasize the value of public water systems, and editorials from newspapers such as “The New York Times” promoting the value of the country’s excellent public water infrastructure and warning against letting it erode by having an “elite” water stream for those who can afford it.
There was also a letter from Nestlé Waters North America Inc., the parent company of Poland Springs and many other bottled water brands, advocating for the merits of bottled water — that it is a healthy product, offers convenience, and has provided safe water during natural disasters.
The Park Slope Food Coop is a member-owned and operated food cooperative with 14,000 members and over $30 million in annual sales. It was founded in 1973.