photo by Qiao-Da-Ye賽門譙大爺 (Flickr CC)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my travels on the continent it’s this: Europeans love bubbly water.

I’m not sure why, as it tickles the nose and tastes weird. Plus you can’t chug it if you’re really hot and thirsty or you might commit the unforgivable faux pas of belching loudly in a Parisian park.

It just so happens that in an attempt to discourage bottled water consumption, the Jardin de Reuilly in Paris has installed a fountain dispensing free chilled carbonated water. In case you didn’t know, the bottled water industry in many developed countries is basically a scam selling you stuff that you can get virtually free from your tap. It creates a huge unnecessary amount of plastic waste and shipping it requires massive amounts of fuel, creating untold greenhouse gas emissions.

From an article in the Guardian:

With the average person drinking 28 gallons [106 liters] of still or sparkling last year, France is the eighth biggest consumer of bottled water in the world, according to figures from the Earth Policy Institute. Observers warn that this habit, which has persevered in many households despite public campaigns to improve the image of l’eau de robinet, is having pernicious effects on the environment: the country is estimated to have produced more than 262,000 tonnes of plastic waste during 2009.

I guess it’s fitting that the French would think of a way to discourage something that they basically created. The yuppie craze to consume Perrier in the 1980s and 90s started this entire mess, followed by Evian and eventually resulting in everyone in the developed world insisting on only drinking water that comes from plastic PET bottles. The U.S. is the largest consumer of bottled water, followed by Mexico, Brazil and China. Those living in the last three can at least argue that their water might not always be that safe, but in the U.S., as in France, it’s just the result of very effective industry brainwashing – and perhaps the aforementioned penchant for bubbles in the case of the latter.

Check out Annie Leonard’s brilliant video ‘The Story of Bottled Water’ for more on why the hell we drink so much of the stuff and the following video report from ITN News on the bubbly fountain in Paris’ Jardin de Reuilly park.