I’ve written before about the carbon footprint of bottled water and its impact on our environment. Supermarkets and gas stations across the country stock their shelves and refrigerators full of plastic bottled water and as a culture of convenience, many Americans are spurred towards purchase.

Significantly enough, recent studies have reported that water has gained even more popularity, surpassing soda as the national drink of choice. The amount of water consumed annually jumped from 38 percent to 58 percent, with some of the popularity being attributed to the marketing and packaging of bottled water (maybe even evidence of an improving economy when people can spend their money for something they already have!). Overall, water in any form is a healthier alternative to carbonated sodas, but is bottled water better than tap?

Although many bottled water manufacturers use creative labels and ad campaigns to promote their purity and mineral-enriched benefits, studies and have shown that it is in fact the contrary. Tap water from every water service provider is regulated by the EPA, tested for up to 100 contaminants, and sent to labs for analysis on a regular basis. Companies that manufacture and distribute bottled water are monitored by the FDA and have a far less rigorous testing and certification process.

Bottled water, on average, costs almost $4.00 per gallon, about the same as the average cost of a gallon of gasoline or milk. Tap water, meanwhile, is a relative bargain at about a penny per gallon!

It is apparent that we have become a more health-conscious society by choosing water instead of soda. However as consumers, it’s important for us to assess our buying decisions even further and whether or not they are sustainable choices for our wallet, body and environment. Reusable water bottles are great alternatives to bottled water that are not only environmentally friendly, but also help to save you money. By first focusing on our personal actions, we can help develop a culture of environmental sustainability starting with the faucets in our own homes.