Recycle Runway Blog

Declining Ten Thousand Dollars Published: 05.24.2012 at 4:25 pm by Nancy Judd

In March of 2012, I was faced with an interesting proposition. I was contacted by someone representing a bottled water company. They had determined that I was an “influencer in the eco-space” and wanted to honor me as one of five eco-enthusiasts in a social marketing campaign launched this Spring. In exchange for $10,000, they would videotape me giving 12 eco-tips that would be posted on their Facebook page monthly; I would post ideas for sustainable living every month; and I would send links of these posts out to my community as well.  What a deal, no?

Photo by environmental artist and photographer Chris Jordan

First off, I was flattered by the compliment—I did not know I was considered an “influencer in the eco-space”. Cool! Next, as a small business owner, I was excited by what a $10k cash infusion could do for my business and my environmental education mission. But then, the reality of the offer set in: even though they assured me that I would not have to endorse the use of bottled water nor the company itself, I knew I would be giving an implied endorsement.

After a bit of angst, I decided to turn down the offer and gave this general explanation: “Because of numerous environmental and health concerns, I just can’t, in good conscience, imply that I encourage people to drink bottled water.”

I am writing this blog-post because I want people to know why drinking bottled water is a bad idea. So, here are the five “cradle-to-grave” reasons why I refused this $10,000 offer:

The rapid growth in the bottled water industry means that water extraction is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are located. For example, water shortages near beverage bottling plants have been reported in Texas and in the Great Lakes. Farmers, fishers, and others who depend on water for their livelihoods suffer from the concentrated water extraction that causes water tables to drop quickly.

Additionally, approximately a third of bottled water sold in the world is filtered tap water.  Two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every one gallon that goes into the bottles!

Fossil fuels are primarily used to package water in bottles. The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year. Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.

In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels which creates pollution that contributes to global warming. Nearly a quarter of all bottled water crosses national borders to reach consumers, and is transported by boat, train, and truck.

Even though people perceive bottled water to be safer and/or healthier than tap water, tap water must meet more stringent quality standards than bottled water. Furthermore, while drinking water systems must publish annually the results of water quality testing, information about the drinking water source, and known threats, bottled water companies do not.

Additionally, phthalate chemical compounds are used to manufacture plastic water bottles to render them flexible. Laboratory studies have linked some phthalates to problems with male fertility, and with obesity, and other health problems related to hormonal imbalances. Several phthalates have been banned in children’s products for this same reason. There is concern that these chemicals leach from the bottle into the water we drink, as well as the groundwater after disposal.

Seventy-five to eighty percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.  A large percentage of the plastic bottles that do get recycled are sent overseas, using additional  fuel and creating more pollution just to be down-cycled into lower quality products. Also, unrecyclable plastics are disposed on-site polluting someone else’s environment with our trash!


As they say, “when one door closes another opens.” One month after I turned down this $10,000 offer, I received a $10,000 fellowship from the National Audubon Society, called TogetherGreen. I’m very excited to start this new project and will be sending out details soon!

I have written a PostScript to this blog post, please read!






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25 responses to “Declining Ten Thousand Dollars”

  1. Cinny says:

    Incredible truth-to-Nature.What an honorable–and difficult– choice. May I post a link to your blog from my Facebook page?

  2. Doug Fallon says:

    Wow Nancy.
    I love this and am saving the data in this email. You are an inspiration of integrity and commitment to your mission. Thank you.

  3. Lisa Simeone says:

    Brava, Nancy! You did the right thing.

    If only more people in this country had the courage of their (professed) convictions.

    I’ve written about you several times and will do an update on this noble decision of yours.

  4. Joni Kabana says:

    Such an inspiring story, Nancy! Working often in Ethiopia, I see how often the practice of restraint is upheld there as a value…something we don’t often practice here in the US. I admire what you have done, and it is a great example of living for our beliefs rather than for money or security. I have a mantra I say often these days: At what price frame? Kudos to you for holding true to your values. You are a far richer woman for doing this. Joni

  5. Good for you, Nancy! You didn’t allow them to buy you, and you stuck to your convictions.

    Good luck on your new project!

  6. devon says:

    I truly believe that things happen for a reason. When you give, you get back. When you do good, good is in turn returned to you. And when you make the right choices, things seem to have a way of manifesting in to something beautiful. I applaud you for externally living your internal ideals; a very tough road when large amounts of money are being tossed around. I had a similar thing happen to me this week, on a much smaller scale…and the message I took home was that our choices do really matter…on an individual and large scale, these chances to do the right thing do affect our lives in big ways. Congratulations on The Auduban Society! Excited to hear more!

  7. Bravo, Nancy! I empathized with kind of the choice you needed to make being that I have faced similar choices — and applaud your faith and courage to let your values guide your decision. Clearly, the decision served you well. Congratulations on your fellowship from the National Audubon Society!

    I love when our courage and faith is met with that kind of support and affirmation in our life experience.

    I found this so inspiration and informative that I would really like to repost it. You would be featured as a guest blogger, with your bio and links to your website. May I do so? – we have over 13,000 subscribers and I envision parents who purchase bottled water for their families would find this of interest. – I would also like to post here as well.

  8. Amy says:

    Great post, Nancy. Thanks for telling the story is such an educational way. And congrats on fellowship!

  9. Nina Anthony says:

    Thanks for sharing this great story, Nancy. Good for you for sticking to your principles! You are truly an “eco influencer!”

  10. Carol Dayton says:

    Hooray for living by your principles,EVEN when it means no $$… and the cosmos did reward your decision ! Have long been esp. concerned w. the cancer-causing properties of re-used plastic bottles, esp. under heat conditions (sitting in a car in AZ.).

  11. Stacy Thomas says:

    Thank you so much for stating so simply what the movie “Tapped” did! People NEED to know! You are a hero today!

  12. Melissa says:

    Loving that you stand by your convictions, and educate us along the way. “Tapped” is a great movie to watch on this subject.

  13. Mary Allen says:

    Nancy, you continue to be an inspiration to me and so many upcoming trashy fashion designers in the Chicagoland area. You are held in high esteem by many because you are an environmenal icon and an artistic “trashy” goddess! Forever your fan, Mary Allen

  14. Kim Davison says:

    I am so proud of you! Thank you for sharing your thought process. Sometimes it is really hard to do the thing you know is right (speaking of an issue I am dealing with right now) and hearing of your new opportunity is reassuring to me.

    I can’t wait to hear about your new venture!

  15. Thank you for sharing this news and posting the info about why not to drink bottled water. It took courage to make that decision and I applaud you for sticking to your beliefs!

  16. olive says:

    Nancy- this is AWESOME. Tina just forwarded this to me – (remember us from Santa Fe?) anyway- truly well written, a fantastic story. Good for you!
    Brava brava brava!

    All the best,

  17. Nancy Judd says:

    Thank you so much everyone for your support! YES, please feel free to re-post or tweet this blog!
    All my best, Nancy

  18. Hi Nancy,

    This is fantastic. I recall we talked about it a while ago before your wrote this article. Congratulations again along with your loving fans. Yes, you are an inspiration!

    Huge hugs and much love from your very proud Mother.

  19. Anna Heiniger says:

    thanks for this post, nancy, and the reminder that money comes from ethically sound sources as well as ones with dubious rationale. i was especially tickled that it was exactly the same amount of money…… keep up the good practice!

  20. Joan says:

    Congratulations on your clear seeing! Thank you for really looking at what the $10,000 meant. Congratulations on the Audubon $10,000!

  21. Gregory Lay says:

    I can see you on stage at TED again! Greatly admire your decision-making values, and the ‘kicker’ to the story about the Audubon Society grant! I learned a lot from your post – thank you.

  22. Cathy Tyson-Foster says:

    Thanks for letting me/us know about this. I love your brain and your heart.
    Keep it up!
    – Cathy

  23. D Peters says:

    Sorry, sounds like posturing to me. While you like to talk big on being kind to the environment, I have to ask: do you live in a house? Do you drive a car? I could go on. The fact is that merely by existing we impact the planet. Even dying impacts the planet (though some might argue for the good – provides fertilizer, etc).

    This company is filling a market need, and in fact doing it in a more eco-friendly way than some other bottlers (their bottles are more eco-friendly now than even five years ago).

    But by all means, let them give their money to some other person who might not then redirect the money to projects you personally feel are appropriate to receive the money.

  24. Laurie says:

    Good for you! I don’t agree with D Peters about “simply filling a market need, so that makes it okay”. Sure, we impact the planet every day, but why not make better choices to impact it less? If you’re not a fan of bottled water, you’re not a fan of bottled water, and even implying that you are would be misrepresentation.

  25. Val Turnbow says:

    It has been awhile since we’ve caught up but I still follow you and your amazing efforts and am in awe every time I see the character and integrity that you posess. You have been and continue to be an inspiration and a fearless leader in waste recycling and diversion. KUDOS to you and your efforts !!!
    Val Turnbow, Dallas, Texas

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