Bottled water costs as much as 15,000 times more than tap water, and more than lots of other beverages we drink, too. But is it better for you? No, according to tests conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Many bottlers just use reprocessed H2O from municipal water supplies; in fact, reprocessed water makes up as much as 40 percent of the bottled water market. (Your Aquafina might have come from the local water utility in Wichita, Kansas.)

Alternatives? Use home filtration systems and buy portable stainless-steel or glass containers. You’ll save about $400 annually, reduce the 1.5 million barrels of oil used to package water each year, and keep plastic from leaching into your drinking water. Put it this way: If 10,000 Plenty readers stopped buying bottled water for a year, the oil they’d save by forgoing the plastic (not including transportation costs, energy used to refrigerate vending machines, the ink on the labels…) could fuel four cars over the same period. Going off the bottle, it seems, is one of the best things you can do for the environment.

Sources: American Waterworks Association; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Natural Resources Defense Council

Jen Boulden and Heather Stephensen are founders of Ideal Bite.

Story by Jen Boulden and Heather Stephenson. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2006. This story was added to in June 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2006.