Bottled Water Shown to Have Lightest Environmental Footprint among Packaged Drinks, New Study Finds

To Press Releases listFeb 3, 2010

Nestlé Waters North America Releases First Comprehensive, Peer-Reviewed Scientific Evaluation to Examine Carbon Footprints of Packaged Beverages

Greenwich, Conn. (February 4, 2010) – A new study released today finds that water, in all its forms, has the least environmental impact of any beverage choice. And when compared to other packaged beverages, including soft drinks, sports drinks, enhanced waters and juices, bottled water has the lightest environmental footprint. The “life cycle analysis study,” available at, was commissioned by Nestlé Waters North America and conducted by Quantis International, a well-recognized leader in life cycle analyses and related applications.

The study is believed to be the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact of water and alternative beverage options, including filtered and un-filtered tap water consumed from reusable plastic, steel and aluminum containers. The analysis follows internationally accepted standards for methodology and transparency in reporting all findings, including favorable and unfavorable comparisons with other beverage options.

According to the report, packaging and distribution are key contributors to a beverage’s carbon footprint. Nestlé Waters’ Eco-Shape® bottled water has the smallest environmental impact among bottled beverages because the bottles use the least amount of plastic and travel a relatively short distance from source to shelf. Bottled water also doesn’t use “grown” ingredients, such as sugar, which eliminates the environmental impact of additional water, pesticides and energy usage associated with harvesting those ingredients. The report determines Eco-Shape to be the best choice for the environment among drinks in packages.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Water is the least environmentally impactful beverage option
    • Tap water has the lightest footprint, followed by tap water consumed in reusable bottles (if used more than 10 times), and then by bottled water
    • Water of all types accounts for 41% of a consumer’s total beverage consumption, but represents just 12% of a consumer’s climate change impact
    • Milk, coffee, beer, wine and juice together comprise 28% of a consumer’s total beverage consumption, but represent 58% of climate change impact
  • Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible packaged drink choice
    • Sports drinks, enhanced waters and soda produce nearly 50% more carbon dioxide emissions per serving than bottled water
    • Juice, beer and milk produce nearly three times as many carbon dioxide emissions per serving as bottled water
  • Nestlé Waters’ Eco-Shape bottled water is the most environmentally responsible packaged drink choice because it uses the least plastic
    • 140 grams of greenhouse gas emissions are produced during the life cycle of one half-liter serving of Eco-Shape bottled water
    • 160 grams of greenhouse gas emissions are produced during the life cycle of one half-liter serving of other bottled water brands (based on typical characteristics)
    • The life cycle of sports drinks and enhanced waters produces 250 grams and 260 grams of carbon emissions per half-liter servings, respectively
  • Choosing between bottled and tap water is just one of many decisions that affect the environmental impact of the water consumers drink
    • Aspects such as transportation, refrigeration, dishwashing and recycling can also play a large role, as do choices among options within the bottled water category
  • Consumers can decrease the climate change impact of consuming an Eco-Shape bottle by 25% if they simply recycle it

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a network of the national standards institutes in 163 countries, provides specific guidelines for conducting a life cycle analysis. According to ISO, life cycle analysis addresses the environmental aspects throughout a product’s life cycle, from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling (where appropriate), and final disposal. Where information from the manufacturers of other products is unavailable, this study assumes equal performance with Nestlé Waters.

“Water is the hero in this story, regardless of whether a person chooses bottled or tap. But sometimes tap is not available or preferred. This report also shows that people can feel good about drinking our water, since our water in the Eco-Shape bottle is the best option, among packaged beverages, for the environment,” said Kim Jeffery, president and CEO, Nestlé Waters North America. “And, from a health perspective, choosing bottled water – with no calories, sweeteners or additives – is about the smartest choice one can make among packaged beverages.”

“Bottled water, like every beverage, has an environmental footprint. The question is, what are we doing to reduce it?” says Alex McIntosh, director of corporate citizenship, Nestlé Waters North America. “This study helps us – and our stakeholders – consider the impacts of beverage options in a fuller context. For example, this report indicates that bottled water bans can be counterproductive from an environmental perspective, since research shows if bottled water were not available, two-thirds of people would drink other packaged beverages, like soft drinks and juices, which often have more impact on the environment than bottled water.”

“More importantly, this report helps direct our efforts of more sustainable product and packaging designs in the future,” McIntosh adds. “The study confirms that initiatives such as reducing plastic in our bottles, taking a regional approach to distribution and advocating for comprehensive recycling are the right strategies for our business and for the environment.”

“Our results show the importance of communicating more complete messages to consumers on environmental topics,” says Jon Dettling, U.S. director for Quantis International. “The results reinforce the view that tap water has a lighter environmental footprint than bottled water, but also examine a variety of other choices consumers make about their consumption of both water and other beverages. Consumers, retailers and others who have an interest in making a difference for the environment can use these findings to make informed decisions about their choice of beverage, choice among water options, and choice in how much of each they consume.”

Nestlé Waters is making progress toward its goals of reducing its carbon footprint on additional fronts, including:

  • Operating nine bottling facilities that meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards
  • Introducing hydrogen fuel cell forklifts and hybrid trucks
  • Reducing carbon intensity by 20% across the company’s value chain by 2013 from a 2006 baseline
  • Working with non-profits, legislators and communities to improve plastic bottle recycling rates in America to 60% by 2018
  • Developing a next-generation bottle made entirely from recycled materials or renewable resources by 2020

  • About Nestlé Waters North America Central to the leadership of Nestlé Waters North America Inc. is its 34-year history and single-focus on producing bottled water products. The company’s dedication to product quality, manufacturing expertise, efficient production, employee development and environmental stewardship, especially in the areas of water use, energy and packaging, has helped Nestlé Waters become the number one bottled water company in the U.S. To reach success, the company follows its credo: Respect for each other, respect for the environment, and respect for the community. To learn more, visit

    About Quantis International Quantis is a team of world-leading experts in the field of environmental life cycle assessment. Quantis works with leading companies, governments and other decision makers to identify and implement the right actions for achieving a more sustainable world. For more information, visit