Environmental Injustices Surrounding Bottled Water

By Caity Varian       

Every second of every day in the United States, a thousand people buy a plastic bottle of water and a thousand more people throw one of these bottles away, adding up to more than thirty billion bottles purchased every year and resulting in tens of billions of dollars in profits for the beverage industry. Water was first sold for emergency storm supply purposes in grocery stores in the United States and is now being marketed and sold all over the world by multinational corporations. Public water supplies are increasingly being pressured by beverage companies to privatize their services. The emphasis on profit in the bottled water industry has exacerbated existing inequalities on local, national and global scales.

In the United States, the beverage industry has capitalized on public fear of tap water, marketing bottled water as a healthy alternative and a safe solution. The imagery and rhetoric employed in bottled water marketing and advertising has worked to construct the consumption of bottled water as the solution to the global water crisis, hindering any sort of political or collective action towards improving the quality of municipal water sources and the quality of freshwater more generally.


Companies such as a Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo extract water and harness municipal water sources, damaging these sources for local communities and future generations. If the bottled water industry continues to grow and thrive, aquifers and groundwater sources will become depleted and only those that can afford to do so will be able to purchase clean drinking water. Bottled water costs 240-100,000 times more per gallon compared to tap water. If the bottled water industry continues to thrive, municipal sources will become more and more scarce and expensive, making clean drinking water more expensive and less accessible.

Bottled water does have an important role to play during emergencies when municipal water systems are temporarily disrupted and in some major cities and countries of the world, bottled water may be the only available source of safe drinking water. However, the perception of bottled water as a status symbol in the United States or as the main source of clean drinking water for the American people needs to be dismantled.

Resistance to the bottled water industry must be addressed at the level of both production and consumption. A “take back the tap” campaign needs to be employed to promote a cultural shift away from the consumption of bottled water. Creating awareness about environmental injustices that persist within the bottled water industry and establishing transparency within the industry will be crucial. Environmental Justice activists must work to persuade consumers to avoid bottled water whenever possible and to pressure public institutions and local governments to stop buying it. In terms of production, local communities need to actively oppose and protest specific instances of spring water extraction by the beverage industry, advocating for the preservation of municipal water sources. We need to think about drinking water as a cultural resource, a political resource, and as an economic resource, and deeply consider the implications of all of these perspectives.


Challenging, Heartfelt Times

By CEO Pamela Hawley

Today, our world seems filled with challenges. Most conversations start with the state of our government, fear for our future, our families and freedoms. We’re facing a tough time in our country and the world. But we must hold to constructive hope.  

We must hold to what we can do, in our hearts, minds and actions.

We’ll take on one area in this discussion. The U.N. recognizes more than 65,000 refugees — but we know there are many more. So, we need to support refugees, human rights, basic freedoms, at home and everywhere. But it doesn’t stop there.

Further, we need to also support host countries. For example, in Lebanon now — more than 50% of students in the schools are Syrian. It’s nearly breaking the Lebanese systems. We need help with refugee absorption, including financial stability, healthcare, and neighborhood integration. It also includes refugees simply feeling welcomed, and host countries feeling they have new friends and partners to strengthen their communities. 

Border host countries don’t decide how many refugees they take in. People just flow over the borders. People in serious need, people who face daily threats to their lives and children — every day. You don’t put a quota on that. You have to accept them, and you do. So, these countries need support, too. They have amazing courage as the make-up of their country is changing every day.

So, at UniversalGiving, we’ll take a strong tack on all the above that focuses on what you can do in a small way. People are so overwhelmed and we want to help lift the oppression. We can be a positive force that uplifts people. What we suggest allows people to make a difference right now: small acts, such as simply smiling at others, helping someone across the street, or even cleaning up after someone spills something! That is an action, and it’s free to all, and immediately “givable.” On the same front, what you do with your hands is equally important. You can take simple, practical, profound actions. You can tap on a new neighbor’s door from El Salvador and write a note to welcome them if they have newly arrived. You can cook a meal for a new teacher who has arrived from Sri Lanka.

We can be depressed and scared and angry — and you pass those thoughts on to someone. Or you can pass on peace. What you do with your mind can have a profound impact. Therefore, we can bring a peaceful mind to every conversation, and a peaceful action in every moment of your day. We can expect the best, and act for the best, for a better world. 

Laugh 'Til You're Green

By Cheryl Mahoney


Eating ethically photo

I love it when I find a site with cool suggestions or resources for how to help a good cause, and I love it even more when I find one that will make me laugh while educating me.  Even better if it’s a site focusing on environmental issues, a cause I’m especially interested in.


All that being said, I’m sure you can imagine how much I like DoTheGreenThing.  First – catchy name.  Second – how often do you find a group using weird tentacly monsters to promote a green lifestyle?  (You know that now you have to go to the site to see the tentacly monsters.)

DoTheGreenThing offers seven ways to reduce your carbon impact, things like unplugging appliances, refusing to purchase the latest, unnecessary items, and being “all-consuming” with what you have.  I’ll admit, most of these ideas I’ve seen before, but they’re presented here in a dynamic, exciting way.  Really.  You actually can be dynamic while talking about unplugging a lamp!  DoTheGreenThing has fun videos about each idea.  These don’t feel like public service announcements–they’re more like mini-movies, and they’re funny movies too.  My favorite is “Ninjin – The Way of the Vegetable Assassin” which is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s about someone assassinating vegetables–but only if they’re being eaten out of season.

You can also join and share a story about doing the green thing, adding your story to the 46,500 stories from 200 countries that have been shared.  That’s an impressive amount of green.

Check out DoTheGreenThing.com for ways to be green, and to have a laugh while you’re doing it.  (And while you’re at it, you can join Climate Reality Action Fund, if you’d like to get emails from Al Gore.)

NGO Spotlight: Kickstart International


Have you traveled to Africa? When we hear this word, most of us think of the elephants and the giraffes of the savannah, the peaks of Kilimanjaro, or the beaches of Cote d’Ivoire. These amazing sights make it easy to lose track of the small-scale farmers that make up 80% of those living in poverty. These families often find that hard work is not enough to combat low rainfall and water shortages. How do you make use of the water you have? And how do you create sustainability? Kickstart International brings irrigation tools and techniques to sub-saharan Africa to rejuvenate these farmlands.

Kickstart International (Kickstart) began when founders Dr. Martin Fisher and Nick Moon started to question traditional techniques in addressing poverty. They wanted to combine new technology that would address the problem with marketplace sustainability. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of products that were made exclusively for poor, rural African farmers. These tools would increase the crop output, resulting in a more sustainable income for the farmers. However, these tools were not handouts – Fisher and Martin were determined to sell low-cost, high-quality irrigation pumps at an affordable price so that families and communities could raise themselves out of poverty.

For over 15 years, Kickstart has provided over 1 million people the opportunity to feed, clothe, and educate themselves while still having some money left over to save for the future. In total, they have sold over 287, 435 pumps. Kickstart is currently working in 16 countries in Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan. The organization focuses on these four areas: increasing incomes, enabling food security, empowering women, and increasing resilience to climate change.

The Time Is Now. Click Here to Watch Kickstart’s Video about Innovation and Action.


If you would like to learn more about Kickstart International’s innovation, you can check out their page on the UniversalGiving website! 

What Brings Me Here


A photo by Oliver & Hen Pritchard-Barrett. unsplash.com/photos/Xwk4gkiMNGc

At UniversalGiving, we are so grateful for all of our interns! Here is a quote from Madhuri, our Q&A/Web Intern about why she has decided to work with us to make the world a brighter place!


“My passion towards learning and contributing to the society brings me here to UniversalGiving. And knowing about the UniversalGiving’s vision really motivates me to come forward and contribute a bit for a great cause. As it is said, small drops make the ocean.”

-Madhuri Kalani, Intern