Environment Forum

Can heavyweight ads sell flyweight products?

If you’re advertising an innovative light-weight product, my advice is: don’t send it in a package that’s 140 times heavier than what you’re trying to sell.

PepsiCo’s Aquafina in the United States sent out a news realease saying that its new half-litre water bottles weigh just 10.9 grams, or half as much as a previous design from 2002.

“The lightest weight bottle in the market,” the release says.

Great idea! Less packaging will save the company an estimated 34,000 tonnes of plastic a year, it says. That’s a good step towards saving costs, waste and carbon emissions.

But a box with the release came with three (…yes, three) full (…yes, full) bottles of water: that’s them above, lined up on a Reuters News windowsill. So all of a sudden it’s not 10.9 grams but 1.5 kilos (plus the cardboard packaging), so at least 140 times the weight of a bottle. Maybe someone thinks we reporters don’t drink enough water?

The package was originally sent to me and the Reuters environment blog at the Reuters News office in New York (bad enough). Someone in my company then forwarded the entire package (worse) to Oslo, Norway, where I’m based. That’s a lot of travel for some water.

Coke sets targets for cuts in water, emissions

Coca-Cola is the latest American brand working to improve its environmental credentials with a sweeping new program that pledges to improve water efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions throughout its massive global system.

The soft drink maker today said that through a partnership with environmental group WWF, it has commited to eliminating 50 billion liters of water from its bottling plants by 2012 by improving water efficiency by 20 percent over 2004 levels. Coke’s announcement comes a few months after General Electric said it would cut water usage by 20 percent by 2012.

The beverage industry has increasingly become a target for environmentalists, who say plastic soda and water bottles add to landfills while the companies themselves use too much energy producing and shipping bottles across the world.