Once in a Blue Moon- The Story of Our Water
One late summer afternoon, after rafting the French Broad River, my partner Michelle and I were chatting over beer and snacks with our newfound friends and raft mates Belinda and Peter, who had traveled from Oakland, CA. We were lazily passing the afternoon waiting for festivities to begin at our mutual friends' wedding. Writer Susanna and massage therapist Jon invited us all to join in the celebration of their love over the weekend this August at Laughing Heart Lodge in the tiny mountain town of Hot Springs, NC.
As we were discussing the nearby hot mineral baths, which are the town's namesake, Peter and Belinda told us that they had just purchased a vacation home near Stewart Mineral Springs at the foot of Mount Shasta. I was excited! I wanted to know more! Northern California is next on my list of places to travel. They told us about the magical aspects of the area, and it also came up that there has been controversy over an unwanted presence moving to the region. That presence is a Crystal Geyser water bottling facility, slated to begin tapping the Siskiyou County groundwater in the midst of California's historic drought.
My heart sank. The name Crystal Geyser was familiar. In fact, I was pretty sure it was the name emblazoned upon the bottles of spring water that I used among carefully chosen ingredients in my handcrafted water-based lotion. Gulp. I had chosen to use spring water in my lotion due to its freshness, oxygenation, and natural mineral content as opposed to purified city tap water or distilled water. The bottled water I had been buying was the most reliable and consistent source of spring water that I had found, and it had worked perfectly in my formulation for years.
As soon as we returned home from the weekend, I rushed to my office and checked an empty water bottle from my last production. Indeed, the label read "Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water." The source was Johnstown, New York, and I found another from Salem, SC. Even though this particular water was not from California, I knew that I could no longer support this company in good conscience. What else was behind the label? Crystal Geyser is owned by CG Roxane, LLC. With a little research, I uncovered that CG Roxane is a subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a multinational corporation that makes, among other products, the antipsychotic drug Abilify. I know first hand how much drugs such as antidepressants can help some people when used appropriately, and there is a time and place for them. But something doesn't sit right about buying water for my independent natural products company from a big pharma conglomerate that was obviously not a model of green business.
It was time to make a plan. To take my business elsewhere. Lucky for me, Asheville has Blue Moon Water, an independently-owned local mountain spring water company. Their motto is "Think Global, Drink Local." I had not used their water before, because I thought they catered to larger companies, and I couldn't figure out a dispenser for the 5 gallon jugs (the common water crock dispenser made me cringe because it would be so hard to keep clean). Regardless of these holdups, I finally contacted Blue Moon. First of all, I noticed that their customer service is awesome. The office manager, Mary, helped me by giving me pricing, which, it turns out, is barely above what I was paying, and includes free delivery! Best of all, I got an education. Mary ended our first email by saying, "Whoever you choose to purchase your water from, it is advisable to ensure the water is not obtained by pumping methods as this is an environmentally unsustainable practice."
I had never heard of pumping before, but it turns out it is a method of obtaining water from deep in the ground. It takes a lot of energy and many bottled water companies use pumping to tap into aquifers and remove water faster than it can be replenished, effectively depleting these invaluable natural resources. And yes, Crystal Geyser, among others, use pumping.
Blue Moon, on the other hand, uses water that naturally overflows from the spring and is fed by gravity into a cave-like structure where it is bottled. This means that the groundwater source is never depleted.
Secondly, I found a helpful chart on the Blue Moon website, which is titled "How far did YOUR water travel to Asheville?" Distances vary from 7452 miles for Fiji water and 1977 miles for California's Crystal Geyser water to 20 miles for Blue Moon Water.
I was sold. I called Mary and set up delivery. The next day, three five-gallon jugs of fresh mountain water arrived on my doorstep. And the day after that, Michelle and I made batch number 92 of Potters' Skin Butter using that water. As a solution for the dispenser, it turns out we can just pour water straight from the jug when we work together. The water worked beautifully. The batch of lotion came out silky smooth. I could not be happier. From now on, Blue Moon Water will be in every batch of Potters' Skin Butter.
Reflecting on this, I am so grateful to Belinda (who, by the way is CEO of her own company Hivequest) and Peter for giving me the opportunity to see behind the label of my water source, and in effect raise my business to the next level ethically, meanwhile supporting a fellow small business. Kermit says, it's not easy being green. But sometimes, like this time, it really is.
Originally published 10.9.15