Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer on the Think Outside the Bottle Campaign led by Mary Nicole of Corporate Accountability. We have completed three Tap Water Challenges in the last few weeks, and guess what? Tap water and bottled water taste the same out of a paper cup! Technically, about half of the people whom participated could tell the difference between tap water and bottled water. You may ask, if half of the people tested could tell the difference between tap water and bottled water, why have the tap water challenge at all?
First of all, ONLY a little less than half of the Portland community tested could even tell the difference between the tap water and bottled water. Now here is the more interesting item … almost none of them could distinguish the difference between the bottled water such as Arrowhead by Nestle corporation or Aquafina by Pepsi or the two different samples of tap water one from PSU drinking fountains and the other local water NW respectively. I found this interesting, but until challenged by a student at one of the Tap Water Challenges didn’t “get it” per say.
After participating in the blind folded taste test, we went through his answers, the participant had guessed the difference between the tap water and bottled water, but didn’t get the more specific answer (had guessed Arrowhead instead of Dasani and had guessed local tap water to water that came from campus). He argued, "I believe your experiment is flawed because I was able to tell the difference between tap water and bottled water, and I would not be able to tell the difference between the different kinds of brands of water anyway, so I think I should get 100 percent correct, water is water it all tastes the same anyway." I thought about what he proposed to me, should I let him “have it” so to speak he did guess the difference between the bottled water and tap water right?
Then it dawned on me, he validated the Tap Water Challenge in one sentence without even realizing it. He couldn’t tell the difference between the bottled water, even as the bottled water industry giants such as Coke, Nestle and Pepsi create huge marketing campaigns telling the public that people buy bottled water for the taste. Corporations are going so far as to “claim” that difference bottled water tastes better than the other, that difference brands of bottled water have distinct taste. Many Americans have gone so far as to prefer one brand of bottled water to another. It makes you wonder are they really drinking the bottled water because it tastes better or have they just become accustomed to the name certain name brand; the tastes great, or less filling advertising campaign of old? As I explained this to him, his anger subsided and he joked, "you know I think you may have made me think outside the bottled today?" To which I replied, "hence the name," and gave him a smile, my work here is done.
As a militant agnostic (our rallying cry is "I don’t know and neither do you!") I was about to write a letter taking issue with Khalid Adad’s opinion piece. Then I realized that the effort would be futile, since I have no way of knowing whether Adad actually exists.