New "Plantbottle" Raises Questions

Is "green" truly green when it's used as a tool to sell more stuff?

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that Coke, the biggest drink maker in the world, is introducing a new bottle with a reduced plastic content. The new design incorporates sugar cane ethanol with petroleum to create the bottle, ostensibly making it more eco-friendly. According to Coke, the "plantbottle" is a step in a cleaner, greener direction, since it is only 70 percent petroleum-based. At the same time, Nestle is working on a reduced-plastic eco-bottle, and PepsiCo is using a corn-based bag for Sun Chips.

It's heartening that large companies are at least thinking about their impact on the planet, but when a new eco-design is implemented to placate consumers and sell more product, is it truly green? Coke hopes to sell two billion "plantbottle" drinks by the end of this year. Environmental groups are saying it's a slight improvement, but the biggest problem here is consumer behavior. No matter what the bottles are made of, not nearly enough consumers recycle the containers they drink out of. Another issue is ethanol itself. When the impact of growing the sugar cane and converting it to ethanol is assessed, not to mention transporting the bottles all over the world, is the "plantbottle" truly an eco-option?

The best option for consumers who want to tread lightly remains the same as it has always been, despite new advances in bottle design: consume less. Fears about tap water safety can be assuaged with a simple in-home faucet filter and a reusable bottle.

Click here for a Treehugger assessment of the five best in-home water filters.

Click here for water safety information from the Environmental Working Group.