Bottlemania Hardcover – May 20 2008
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
From Publishers Weekly
Royte (Garbage Land) plunges into America's mighty thirst for bottled water in an investigation of one of the greatest marketing coups of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As tap water has become cleaner and better-tasting, the bottled water industry has exploded into a $60 billion business; consumers guzzle more high-priced designer water than milk or beer and spend billions on brands such as Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani that are essentially processed municipal water. It's an unparalleled—and almost exclusively American—social phenomenon. With journalistic zeal, Royte chronicles the questionable practices of Nestle-owned Poland Springs and documents the environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles, the carbon footprint of water shipped long distances and health concerns around the leaching of plastic compounds from bottles. Not all tap water is perfectly pure, writes Royte, still, 92% of the nation's 53,000 local water systems meet or exceed federal safety standards and it is the devil we know, at least as good and often better than bottled water. This portrait of the science, commerce and politics of potable water is an entertaining and eye-opening narrative. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Fantastic.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Ingenious.... Amiably, without haranguing or hyperventilating, this veteran environmental writer has produced what could be, assuming enough people read it, one of the year's most influential books.” ―Boston Globe
“Royte's lively investigation of water politics will leave you ashamed to drink out of plastic, uneasy about the tap, and impressed by her ability to synthesize complicated material into such a witty and engaging book.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“An easy-to-swallow survey.... after you read it you will sip warily from your water bottle (whether purchased or tap, plastic or not), as freaked out by your own role in today's insidious water wars as by Royte's recommended ecologically responsible drink: 'Toilet to tap'.” ―Lisa Margonelli, New York Times Book Review
“Light and easy-to-read narrative…lots of interesting factoids…” ―Providence Journal-Bulletin
“At a time of climate change and increasing risks to global water supplies, we must change the way we think about this crucial resource and begin treating it as a public good to be preserved, rather than the equivalent of an oil deposit or timber forest, ripe for corporate exploitation.” ―New Scientist
“An intriguing look at a totem of the ultramodern, perhaps selfish, way we live now” ―Time Out Chicago
“a well-balanced, interesting and instructive book about our fundamental human need to drink water” ―Chicago Sun Times
“Seamlessly blending scientific explanation and social observation” ―LA Times Book Review
“Bottlemania makes the case that it's not in our interests to let private multinational corporations float their boats on our nation's water. That's not democracy, it's dam-ocracy, and it could damn us all if we let their unquenchable thirst for profit take precedence over our right to clean, safe, free drinking water.” ―Kerry Trueman, Huffingtonpost.com
“An intrepid, intelligent analysis of Americans' raging thirst for bottled water.” ―BookPage
“An essential, if somewhat disturbing, read.” ―VeryShortList.com
“A breezy, accessible history of water through the ages....a good account of the tensions in the little town of Fryeburg, Maine.” ―New York Post
“A sharp indictment of the bottled-water industry” ―New York Observer
“Informative” ―Meghan O'Rourke, Slate.com
“Compelling and dynamic” ―Library Journal
“Entertaining and eye-opening” ―Publishers Weekly
“Bottlemania is eye-opening and informative; you will never look at water – either "designer" or tap – in quite the same way. Royte demonstrates how everything is, in the end, truly connected.” ―Elizabeth Kolbert
“Royte deserves credit for her tenacity and well-balanced approach….Lively investigative journalism.” ―Kirkus ReviewsSee all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Despite the "funny" review of a top 1000 reviewer (imagine that) that considers this book as propaganda for more regulation, it is quite the opposite. The book comes across as a systematic analysis of how the industry evolved and some on-the-scene reporting of key players like Nestle and Poland Springs. The chapter on the latter, neatly cataloging the unimaginable conflicts of interests and a apparently pliant local public officials, alone is worth the price of the book. It is impossible for a reader not to be shocked at some of the reporting (the author almost always avoids any preachy tone). The contrasts and comparisons drawn between the Freysburg and Kingsfield communities is an interesting read as well. There is another chapter that outlines some actions companies like Coke are taking to evaluate their footprint. Another chapter worth mentioning is "Something to Drink?" - the last chapter which takes a broader viewpoint and ties the topics to global warming and related issues. You will learn fun stats as "a cotton t-shirt is backed by 528.3 gallons of water and a single cup of coffee by 52.8 gallons".
Now, the negatives - The book takes a decidely US-centric narration. There is no extensive discussion on similar issues outside of the US (though there is some mention on the Coke debacle in India). The first-account narrative style helps to provide a very down-to-earth method to convey the ideas, but sometimes distracts from highlighting some of the salient points being made.
Nevertheless, an informative, entertaining read that will certainly question the utility of an entire industry.
This is because Ms. Royte's simple questions about bottled water lead her and us on an exploration of a whole hidden world of our water and sanitation resources and infrastructure that lies behind our taps. How does bottled springwater differ from tap water in terms of harmful biological and chemical contaminants? How did the fad of chugging water out of throwaway plastic bottles catch on? Where does our tap water come from? How is it treated? Is that necessarily good for us? What is happening to the watersheds that all of us depend on? How can they be protected? How are water and sanitation systems interrelated? Are these groundwater and freshwater issues affected by other environmental trends, like global warming? And so on.
Like Ms. Royte, you will probably come to the end of this brisk, readable work knowing a lot more about your own water and sanitation then you did when you began and have a much better appreciation of the somewhat unsurprising policy conclusions she reaches: that protecting our public drinking water "commons" makes more sense than drinking water bottled at distant plants.
Although judging by the cute title and cover art the topic might seem a bit frothy and more of a treatise on marketing and product development, the author's target is much wider. I am an environmental attorney and have handled permitting and litigation involving public water supply and sanitary treatment systems and bottled springwater, and am impressed by how the author is able to get so much technical detail right, while keep it readable and interesting to a lay audience. Ms. Royte has written one of the best general interest books in a long while on an important, probably, THE most important environmental topic (other than climate change/greenhouse gases) of "wat-san" and preserving/expanding our aging public water and sewer infrastructure. In getting to those conclusions by starting her inquiry with questions about commoditized bottled water, the author attempts to be evenhanded and fair in her depiction of the corporate and individual actors without overly indulging in anti-corporate bias.
My only minor quibble is the omission of any discussion of state licensing requirements and associated testing and reporting requirements (where it says, e.g., "NYSHD Cert. No. ___" on the label in small type). However, that's just a small omission, although I'm surprised the Nestle people didn't mention that there are state reviews of their in-house analytical and production data, it would seem to make their case stronger that water quality is not merely self-regulated or conforming only to advisory industry standards (i.e., IBWA) with respect to periodic testing, labeling and allowable maximum contaminant levels. That small error however does not detract significantly from the quality of this book. I've just ordered a few more copies of this book to share with several friends and colleagues who I think would be interested, that's how much I'm recommending it.
Elizabeth Royte attempts to address the bizarre cult and psychology of bottled water in her entertaining and highly readable book, BOTTLEMANIA: HOW WATER WENT ON SALE AND WHY WE BOUGHT IT. To her great credit, Ms. Royte tackles a macro issue through micro means, turning what could have been pages of dry statistics into highly personal stories that shed revealing light on how water issues, particularly those raised by bottled water, affect local communities. The stories she tells are devastating, as are the lessons to be learned.
For readers who, like me, are not well acquainted with the bottled water world, the first important fact to know is who the players are. Not the brands, the players. Heard of Poland Spring? Deer Park? Perrier? San Pellegrino? Arrowhead? Calistoga? Ice Mountain? Ozarka? Zephyrhills? All of those brands - all of them - are owned by one company, Nestle. How about Aquafina? That's Pepsi. How about Dasani, or Glaceau? Those are Coca-Cola. Evian? That's Danone (Dannon), but in the U.S., that's Coca-Cola, too. Next, do you know that Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani are just bottled tap water? Purified and with some minerals added, to be sure, but just tap water. How about this one - that companies like Nestle extra billions of gallons of spring water from around the United States and rarely pay anything to the local community. In other words, they are selling a product that comes to them for free. Or this one - that it takes 17 million barrels of oil each year to make the plastic bottles for just the U.S. bottled water market, which doesn't even begin to account for the oil consumed in transporting those bottles to market or disposing of them.
Ms. Royte's book is full of information like this. She uses as her focal point the long-term battles that have taken place in northwestern Maine between Poland Spring (Nestle) and the local communities, particularly that of Fryeburg. Along the way, the Fryeburg story provides her with a highly local context in which to hash out the far larger national and even global ramifications of control over water, from management of watersheds to impacts of bottling on local watertables and aquifers, from tap water quality to the environmental impact of countless millions of plastic water bottles. The author even digresses into a couple of curiously humorous asides, one concerning bottle water aficionados and another addressing the rather unsettling notion of large scale recycling (for tap water consumption) of water extracted from human waste.
BOTTLEMANIA will likely be, for many, a wake-up call. The environmental impacts of bottled water are clearly horrendous, and the lack of regulation and increasing corporatization and privatization of water supply (bottled or not) should be distressing concerns not just in the United States, but worldwide. In that regard, I very highly recommend a documentary DVD called FLOW about international water privatization by companies like Vivendi and Suez as as a remarkably on-point companion piece to Ms. Royte's book.
Ms. Royte's book is not perfect - she is too reluctant to engage in polemics when they are clearly called for, and at least some supplementary statistics presented in tabular form (including a list of all the major and lesser bottled waters and their ownerships) would have been helpful. In addition, she takes perhaps too much of a pass on calling out Americans for their gullibility, laziness, and gross wastefulness as it pertains to the entire bottled water movement. Nevertheless, BOTTLEMANIA serves an important educative purpose, and it does so in an engaging and entertaining way. This is a book that should be required reading for every high school student in America - regrettably, few will probably ever even know about it.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Business & Investing > Biography & History > Company Profiles
- Books > Business & Investing > Economics > Natural Resources
- Books > Business & Investing > Industries & Professions > Hospitality, Travel & Tourism
- Books > Business & Investing > Marketing & Sales > Marketing > Research
- Books > Education & Reference > Consumer Guides
- Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Sociology
- Books > Professional & Technical > Accounting & Finance > Economics > Natural Resources
- Books > Professional & Technical > Business Management > Marketing & Sales > Marketing > Research
- Books > Professional & Technical > Engineering > Civil > Environmental
- Books > Science & Math > Environment > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Environment > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Reference