By Alli Crook and Caitlin Krown, Tuesday, November 1, 2011
To Tap That, a campaign of the Vassar Greens dedicated to reducing bottled water use on campus, commercial scams and unregulated corruption are expected of all major bottled water companies. From images of mountain springs and false promises of a healthier, cleaner product, bottled water companies have designed a product so cleverly that many are now convinced that they cannot live without it and are willing to pay for something that is literally free.
Recently, bottled water corporate king Nestlé has started a new kind of marketing tactic: targeting minorities. Depending on where you live in the country, you may know Nestlé bottles by a number of names such as Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Poland Spring and Zephyrhills. Nestlé has a new brand of bottled water called Pure Life that takes water from a public water source, filters it, bottles it and sells it at thousands of times the price without releasing information regarding the quality of the product they are selling. Meanwhile, public water treatment facilities are required to release reports concerning the cleanliness of tap water.
But the injustices of this company go far beyond typical corporate nonsense. Nestlé uses a variety of tactics to target the Latino minority in their marketing. Underprivileged Latino families are especially vulnerable to such advertisement, as they often come from places that don’t have access to clean drinking water. Nestlé exploits this in a number of ways. They run campaigns that specifically target Latino mothers and utilize Latino celebrity endorsements.
Furthermore, the main Pure Life store in New York is located in a neighborhood in the Bronx that has one of the highest concentrations of Latinos. It is also one of the poorest communities in the country. These are families that can’t afford to spend money on such a useless commodity, and yet Latino families spend three times as much on bottled water each year (an average of one percent of their annual pay check). They are purchasing an unsustainable product from unethical companies who lie about their product.
Nov. 2 was a national day of action facilitated by Think Outside the Bottle, an organization that aims to hold corporations accountable for their practices and misdeeds. Vassar’s Tap That participated by holding a water taste test in the College Center and by hosting a screening of the movie FLOW this evening. These actions and this campaign are not just another hippie, green protest, but an appeal to a larger audience and a larger social injustice and exploitation that is occurring. Tap That has been in contact with other on campus groups, such as Poder Latino, to help facilitate a larger movement for justice. In line with the Occupy Wall Street protests, there is something about this campaign that should appeal to a range of groups calling for corporate accountability and a larger value on humanity, not equity. Drinking bottled water is not only an individual’s waste of money, but money given to support an industry that is filled with social injustice and corruption.
—Alli Crook and Caitlin Krown are coordinators of the Vassar Green’s Tap That committee.