Nowhere in Fiji Water’s glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island’s faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has — despite the owners’ talk of financial transparency — set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its eco-conscious consumers. And, of course, you won’t find mention of the military junta for which Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy.
The label on a bottle of Fiji Water says “from the islands of Fiji.” Journey to the source of that water, and you realize just how extraordinary that promise is. From New York, for instance, it is an 18-hour plane ride west and south (via Los Angeles) almost to Australia, and then a four-hour drive along Fiji’s two-lane King’s Highway.Every bottle of Fiji Water goes on its own version of this trip, in reverse, although by truck and ship. In fact, since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles’ journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation — which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it.That is not the only environmental cost embedded in each bottle of Fiji Water. The Fiji Water plant is a state-of-the-art facility that runs 24 hours a day. That means it requires an uninterrupted supply of electricity — something the local utility structure cannot support. So the factory supplies its own electricity, with three big generators running on diesel fuel. The water may come from “one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth,” as some of the labels say, but out back of the bottling plant is a less pristine ecosystem veiled with a diesel haze.
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