Bottled Water Out of National Parks

Ripple worked with Corporate Accountability International’s ‘Think Outside the Bottle’ campaign to get bottled water out of our national parks – which seems to us like a pretty obvious thing to do. But this is yet another story of a mega-corporation, in this case Coca-Cola, acting blatantly in it’s own self-interest rather than the interest of the environment. Our job was the get this message into the media to educate the public and galvanize support for these parks to go bottle-free.

Prior to phasing out bottled water last year, the Grand Canyon found plastic bottles accounted for 20 percent of its overall waste stream, or more than 500 tons of waste annually. It’s been estimated that eliminating this waste could save parks as much as 30 percent of their costs for recycling removal.

Meanwhile, Coke executives are making it extremely difficult for other parks to get rid of plastic water bottles. They are on the record as having influenced the National Park Foundation to require that each park overcome a series of bureaucratic hurdles, simply to phase out bottled water.

With 280 million visitors each year in parks, Coca-Cola, bottler of Dasani, has seen marketing and sales as a vehicle to paint its eco-unfriendly product green. From 2007-2012, Coke’s revenue totaled more than $192 billion. Meanwhile, over the same period, Coke paid a modest $2.5 million to the National Park Foundation for exclusive use of park logos in its cause-marketing.

And bottlers’ interest in the parks is not just about greenwashing, it’s about influence. When Coke discovered the Grand Canyon’s plan to phase out bottled water and sell reusable bottles instead, executives used their relationship with the National Park Foundation to water down their national policy on bottled water. Now parks must individually petition regional superintendents and overcome additional hurdles to go bottled water free.

And a growing number of parks are phasing out bottled water despite the beverage giant’s efforts. From Zion in Utah to Hawaii Volcanoes, at least 14 parks out of 398 park “units” have already given bottled water the boot. Reusable bottles have proven a lucrative revenue source for some concessionaires, while new hydration stations have ensured visitors remain hydrated even in desert parks like Saguaro in Arizona.

Going bottled-water free is a part of the Park Service’s plan to serve as a worldwide model of sustainability. To this end, Mount Rainier and GGNRA have initiated the process to follow the Grand Canyon’s lead.

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