Brain Pickings

Visualization of Global Bottled Water Consumption

Why de-bluing the developed world makes the whole world a greener place.

For this Friday’s short-and-sweet, we’re doing a Brain Pickings original — after stumbling upon some data on global bottled water consumption in The Guardian, we did a quick visualization of it. Because we hate (HATE) bottled water and all of its environmental implications, and the data was striking in a number of ways.

Click to enlarge
The bluer an area, the more plastic-chugging takes place there – the cyan value in CMYK is set to the percentage of total bottled water consumption each geographic area accounts for. (Click image to enlarge.)

There are two curious pieces of insight here:

First, it’s obvious the developed world is by far the bluest. Which is unsurprising, yet ironic — because the whitest parts are not only in climates where water is that much more integral to survival, but also areas where the lack of safe drinking water is among the leading causes of death.

Secondly, the data is quite old — the visualization is based on the latest data in the set, but even that is from 2004. And while there’s a marked increase in consumption between 1997 and 2004, with the recent backlash against bottled water, it would be interesting to see how not only total consumption, but also the ratios change. Because the developed world, while still no doubt the most massive plastic-chugger by far, is also the target of all that media attention to the issue. So we can expect — or at least hope for — a significant de-bluing of North America and Europe over the next decade.

Until then, though, please get yourself a water filtration pitcher and a reusable bottle, eh? We like Brita and Sigg.

Published September 4, 2009




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