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Real Men Drink Tap Water. Does Al Gore?

While Al Gore's commitment to the climate is convincing, I can't help but wonder whether or not the water he was drinking at the Greentech summit was tap or bottled.
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Al Gore's concern about climate change was as clear as the water that filled a pitcher and water goblets by his side last month. The former vice president told a sold out crowd, "we are facing a true planetary emergency," during Aspen, Colorado's Greentech Innovation Network summit. While his commitment to the climate is convincing, I can't help but wonder whether or not the water he was drinking was tap or bottled.

Here's why. It's no secret that Fiji Water is the drink of choice at all of the Aspen Institute events. As it should be. Generous and philanthropic owners of the luxury brand, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, are longtime supporters of the Institute and product placement champions. But on that warm afternoon, the bottled beverage was nowhere to be seen. I'm guessing it was because the superstars on stage recognized the incongruity of speaking about the environment while drinking from plastic bottles which tend to end up in landfill. But, no comment was made to this end.

I've been obsessing over a bottled water battle previously sparked on site by Google's Chris Sacca versus Lynda Resnick. A not-so-gracious Sacca described, in a panel discussion (which included Mrs. Resnick) on "citizen journalism," his inability to drink from imported water bottles because, to him, the water tastes like oil. The visceral imagery was created based on a calculation of the amount of oil required to ship a bottle of water from its source (it really comes from Fiji or France or Italy or...) to the Bay Area of California. Similarly, but more tactfully, in his July 2007 article, "Message in a Bottle," in Fast Company, Charles Fishman wrote "We're moving one billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 8 1/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.) ...Once you understand where the water comes from, and how it got here, it's hard to look at that bottle in the same way again." In other words, it takes a lot of oil to transport our plastic water bottles from one place to another. And then there's the oil necessary to make a plastic bottle.

But what's more, according to Fast Company's Fishman:

- Worldwide, one billion people have no reliable source of drinking water; 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water.
- We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year -- in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
- Fiji Water produces more than a million bottles a day, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have reliable drinking water.
- 24 percent of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke (Dasani) and Pepsi (Aquafina).

It's something to reflect upon. But neither Al Gore nor his host, John Doerr, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and a trustee of The Aspen Institute, made mention of the local and global environmental implications of this $15 billion bottled water industry we do not need. However, Gore emphatically asked the captive audience to sign a seven point Live Earth pledge. Yet the pledge makes no specific mention on the topic of bottled water so I propose an eighth point:

8. Drink tap water from a reusable bottle.

And, to those marketers in a position to do so, Mr. (Chris Sacca) Google... donate reusable bottles with your brand on them when you are a guest at an event, don't bite the hand that feeds you. The environment is an area in which we all need to get along. And just as the still non-presidential contender, still overweight guest-of-honor concluded his remarks, I place my hands together over my heart and bow to Al Gore, to John Doerr and to their efforts. I signed the pledge, invited five friends to join me, and I drink tap water from a reusable bottle. Namaste.

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