Annie Leonard tells the story of bottled water

Bottled water or tap water? “Who would demand a less sustainable, less tasty, way more expensive product — especially when you can get it for almost free in your own kitchen?” Annie Leonard reveals some inconvenient truths about our economical system and the way we handle the resources of our planet. Telling the story of bottled water, she explains how the image of tap water got tainted, what that means for big business, for the environment, and for all of us…

Looking at bottled water from the perspective of the linear system of materials economy, Annie Leonard provides valuable insight in how the economy works in general and how that system has changed our view on drinking water. With a price 2000 x higher than tap water, one third of all bottled water sold in the U.S. coming out of the tap anyway, and 80% of the discarded plastic bottles (made out of oil) ending up polluting our environment, bottled water is a highly unsustainable product, the demand for it manufactured by the industry. The video ends with the call to create our own demand: Clean, safe water for all!

Although this is a professional documentary, it feels almost like a presentation with laptop and projector. And it is exactly this kind of simple yet sophisticated style that makes it so compelling. Simple yet sophisticated — a contradiction in terms? Simple gets often mixed up with simplistic. Explaining complex topics in logical steps without over-simplifying the matter is a rather fine line to walk. After all, we want to be understood by our audience. However complicated our topic, however deep our research, however extensive our material, it is our duty as presenters to make it appear simple and easy to follow. It was Albert Einstein who said, “Everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

The video on bottled water is part of the Story of Stuff Project created by Annie Leonard to leverage environmental and social concerns. In 2007 Annie Leonard released the documentary The Story of Stuff about the system of materials economy with its phases, extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. The documentary is a call for a more sustainable and just world. A front page article in The New York Times on May 10, 2009, triggered a heated public discussion about the movie and its critical message.