As consumer culture has started to prioritize sustainable living and making strides in everyday life to cut down on preventable waste, it is hard to miss the growth in popularity the reusable water bottle industry has experienced. At this point, it has essentially turned into a fashion statement to be seen carrying around an oversized bottle covered in stickers or with a straw poking out. For many, their water bottle is more than just an easy-to-transport and reusable bottle – it has become their “emotional support water bottle.” A nickname coined through social media. However, as each company has their moment in the spotlight before fading into a passing trend, it has led to cabinets being stocked full of water bottles of every brand name, color and size collecting dust. This makes me question if we are losing sight of the purpose of these reusable water bottles, and instead spending large amounts of money to feed into an obsession.
Over the years we’ve seen water bottle companies such as S’well, Yeti, and Hydro Flask take over the lives of Millennials and Gen Z by selling out the most coveted colors in the largest possible sizes. For the longest time, denting your precious water bottle was the biggest concern of fanatics everywhere, along with the stress that came with picking out the perfect stickers to match your aesthetic. But now most of those water bottles are long forgotten and have since been replaced by the latest reusable water bottle to join the trend, the Stanley Tumbler, a 40-ounce mega bottle with a giant handle and straw and a starting price of $50. While it is important to clean and replace reusable water bottles from time to time, is it sustainable, or dare I say necessary, to own every color of the Starbucks Tumblers, or separate reusable water bottles for various cold drinks?
The reusable water bottle injury started with the right intentions, as an initiative to eliminate plastic waste by reducing the amount of plastic water bottles, but it has turned into so much more. With the rise of TikTok and Instagram influencers, mass marketing revolving the reusable water bottle trend increased consumerism exponentially. Soon, everyone just had to have the water bottle their favorite social media star was using, and when the influencer moved onto the next, so did their followers. This created a culture surrounding the water bottles, leading to the concept of an “emotional support water bottle”, or in this case, multiple “emotional support water bottles”. This has led to sustainability evolving into a trend to follow, and while it encourages more people to switch to reusable water bottles, this has resulted in turning reusable water bottles into collectible items, which defeats the purpose.
The next time you catch yourself grabbing a new water bottle off the shelf at Target or placing one in your Amazon shopping cart, think twice about whether you are falling into the consumerism trap or actually making the effort to live a more sustainable life!