The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

24 May 2007

Six degrees of water

As you go down this list, you will see an increasing emphasis on changing the world through the water you drink.

1. Water madness
Bling H2O is the inspiration of Hollywood producer-writer Kevin G Boyd. Whilst working on studio lots where image is of the greatest importance, he noticed that you could tell a lot about a person by the bottled water they carried. He felt that whether bottles had a cool shape or the water came from an exotic island, none of the brands that were available made “the perfect statement”. So he set out to create a super-luxury brand which would define a person in the same way that owning a Rolls Royce Phantom does. Initially introduced to hand-selected athletes and actors, Bling is now becoming more widely available.

Bling H2O is bottled at source in Tennessee, and has won medals for best-tasting water. It uses a 9-step purification process that includes UV treatment and microfiltration.
It’s not for everyone. Just for those that Bling. Bling is the ultimate in designer water. It costs around $40 a Half-litre bottle.

2. Bottled water anyway
Go to your local supermarket and you will find many brands of bottled water. Some is “premium” costing $2-3 a bottle; some is “value” at perhaps $1 per bottle. It comes from different parts of the world; some has been imported and travelled thousands of miles to get to you (see the explanation of Water Miles. You are spoiled for choice. In restaurants, you may be offered “still” or “sparkling” often for as much as $7 per bottle.
Did you know that the bottled water industry globally is a $25 billion dollar a year industry. Did you know that UNICEF reckons that this is more than the cost of bringing clean fresh water to every human being on the planet (around one sixth of whom today do not have ready access to this most basic of commodities). And think of the pollution and congestion created by bringing this water to you, and the problem of what to do with the empties (much of which is not even being recycled).

3. Bottled water for a good cause
If you do want to drink bottled water, then check out these two brands. All profits go to support water projects around the world. So at least you will be drinking bottled water for a good cause. Belu is sold in glass bottles, but also in biodegradable bottles made of corn starch.
One water:

4. Pure water on tap
The advantage of tap water is that it is piped direct to you, so involves no water miles. But some people prefer filtered water, especially where the water has been excessively treated to be made drinkable. Check out Pure H2O, which produces high-tech domestic filtration systems which can be connected to the main water supply.

5. The empty bottle
A bottle of Neau water contains NO WATER. This concept was developed by an advertising agency in the Netherlands called Vandejong to highlight the cleanness of tap water , and also to raise money for water projects in the world. each bottle contains a message about the Neau concept, plus instructions to fill up the bottle from the tap. A 330ml bottle of Neau sells for around Eu1.50. This means that an empty bottle costs more than a full bottle. It is not just that the contents of a bottle of water cost virtually nothing; it is the value of the Neau brand which proclaims you as a water saint.

6. Virtual water
Our last product is a virtual water. When you buy a bottle of Charity:Water, you don’t get a bottle, and you don’t get any water. Instead you will be using the $20 that this bottle of virtual water costs to help build freshwater wells.

“Right now more than 1 billion people in the world, mostly in developing nations, do not have access to safe water. Unsafe water causes 80% of all sickness and disease, and kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. With your help, we can alleviate the suffering of many. The donation from just one virtual bottle can provide clean water to someone who needs it for 15 years. Donate by purchasing a virtual bottle of water $20. 100% of your donation will directly fund freshwater well projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, The Central African Republic, and Malawi.”

Charity:Water is the brainchild of Scott Harrison: “Think of it as water for water.” To build a new well in Ethiopia requires just 200 people to buy one bottle of Charity:Water, and will give a village of hundreds clean water for the future. “Bottles of spring at the deli are cheaper, but they don't go as far.”

What is a Water Footprint?

The water footprint of a country or a community shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of that country or community. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country.

Some facts and figures
• To produce one kg of beef requires 16,000 litres of water.
• To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.
• To produce one kg of maize requires 900 litres of water
• The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
• Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
• The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.

Check out this website: Look up the Product Gallery to find out the water footprint of some common foodstuffs and beverages (plus industrial products, shoes and paper). You’ll be surprised.

And assess your own footprint at:

What are Water Miles?

Food miles are the miles that an item of food has traveled to get to your table. From the mango groves of India or the coffee plantations of Costa Rica or the olive groves of Spain to the houses of people living in Germany or England.

Water miles are similar: the distance that a bottle of water has traveled to get to you – from the glaciers of the Alps or a spring in Scotland… In a supermarket survey, the Food Commission found bottled water that had travelled more than 10,000 miles (16,000km) to reach UK consumers.

The distance that food and water is travelling is growing ever longer, with food products and ingredients shipped, flown and trucked to supermarket shelves. Every extra mile uses more fossil fuel and adds more carbon dioxide emissions to our national total – emissions that boost the a country's contribution to climate change.

So check the label to see where the food, drink and water that you intend to purchase has come from. If it has traveled long distances, put it back on the shelf. Buy products that are as local as possible. Your purchasing decisions will have a small impact ; but if millions of people reduce their food and water miles, this will have a huge impact.


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