Boxed water is better, reusable canteen is the best.
But in lieu of a water bottle -I honestly cannot count the number of times I have left mine at home and sworn at myself after reaching for it and coming up empty handed- a paper box certainly beats a plastic bottle... potentially.
Boxed water doesn't taste better, or it stays cooler longer. The argument Boxed Water is Better makes is that it is more environmentally sustainable than other "portable water" products, specifically disposable plastic water bottles.
Plastic bottles have rightfully gained a notorious reputation over the past decade or so. Statistics such as US landfills containing over 2 million tons of plastic bottles and requiring 3 liters of water to make the bottle for 1 liter of water can shocks even the least eco-conscious person (find more scary stats here). But manufacturers have streamlined the plastic bottle to reduce consumption and big pushes in plastics recycling have been made. There are many organizations combating plastic pollution and I am cautiously optimistic our plastic addiction is becoming more manageable. So why switch over to a box now?
The Boxed Water is Better company, launched in May 2009, describes itself in 3 ways: a sustainable water company, an art project, and a philanthropic project. The latter 2 claims cannot be contested, the design is a simple beautiful statement and part of the proceeds go to 1% For The Planet, but the first claim is a bit trickier.
The box seems at first glance like a brilliant idea, easily marketable to the environmentally moral consumer. But depending on sources and practices that could have not be the case. Questions such as where does the paper carton come from and how is it processed need to be asked. Is it recyclable and what other materials are in the packaging? And beyond the packaging, what about the water? Where does it come from, and how is it transported. All of these factors play into the ecological footprint of a product.
Now in its 5th year, the Boxed Water is Better company has answers to many to these questions, and does seem to make the most prudent and least impactful actions a small company can take. They use purified municipal water and minimize transport of packaging and product. They source from certified well managed forests for their cartons and they are completely recyclable.
In depth life cycle assessments have not been conducted, but when compared to the disposable water bottle it does seem boxed water is better. Plus it photographs awesomely well!
By the way, this isn't the first time I have talked about packaging design (lets just say I am kind of into it). Check out this past post on serious industry innovation.