If you look at the objects that are around you right now, many of them probably traveled an incredibly long way before they finally made it into your hands. That’s because thanks to the global supply chain, we have easy access to products from all over the world. While this sort of access can be incredible, and has transformed the planet, it can also carry some major downsides, especially for the environment.
You might have noticed that Nalgene bottles are made right here in the USA. So what’s the big difference between water bottles made in the USA, and bottles made elsewhere?
To us here at Nalgene, the difference is monumental. Believe it or not, reusable water bottles made outside of the USA can pose major environmental and ethical concerns. That seems like a pretty big downside, especially for a product designed to reduce plastic waste. With Nalgene, we simply refuse to compromise when it comes to our ethical and environmental footprint, while still delivering the quality you know and love. That’s why we’re committed to creating bottles right here in the USA, to ensure that from the moment they’re created to when you take them on the trail, our bottles are doing what they’re designed to do: helping you quench your thirst, while caring for you and the planet.
How A Bottle Gets Into Your Hands
When a product is not made in the USA, its journey can be lengthy, time consuming, and have widespread impact, on both the planet and its people. To understand this, it’s important to understand where U.S. goods come from. The top five countries which supply imported goods to the U.S. are China ($452 billion), Mexico ($358 billion), Canada ($319 billion), Japan ($144 billion), and Germany ($128 billion). Goods which come from any of these countries travel thousands of miles just to reach American shores, and that’s just the beginning.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example: If we were to follow along with a bottle that was made in any one of these countries, we would see just how long and strenuous that journey can be.
Firstly, this little plastic water bottle might have been manufactured in a facility that contributes to air, water, and soil pollution, because many facilities in other countries don’t follow the same protocols as US factories (more on that later). Then, the bottle would be loaded onto a ship that likely churns out plumes of greenhouse gases while it travels thousands of miles across the ocean. That one little bottle then might sit in a shipping container from anywhere from 30 days to 100 days, before it arrives at its U.S. port.
After that bottle finally makes its way here to the United States, it then needs to be transported from that shipping port to wherever it’s sold on store shelves, a journey that can include thousands more miles, and even more greenhouse gases. By the time it finally arrives at its retailer, that bottle traveled around the world, and the energy used to get it there was pretty astronomical. Whew, what an exhausting journey for one reusable water bottle.
A Different Story: The American Journey
If you follow along with one of our made-in-the-USA Nalgene bottles, you’d experience a much shorter trip. Here’s how it goes: our BPA-free plastics are shipped from Tennessee to our Rochester, New York facility where our bottles are manufactured. After the bottles are made in New York, they’re then sent out to your store shelves.
That’s it, plain and simple.
That’s why we don’t throw around “Made in the USA” lightly, and we’re especially proud of this when it comes to Tritan, the incredibly durable, BPA-free plastic we use to make many of our products. Tritan is not just any old plastic, and it’s exclusively made here in the USA. This means that some of those other water bottle companies that use Tritan have the material first shipped overseas to their manufacturing facility, before their final bottle is shipped back here to the US. This adds even more to the environmental impact of those water bottles, if you can believe it.
Plus, there’s another advantage to our bottles being made in the USA. As we like to say, our bottles are “born from science,” and our roots go back to the 1940s, when chemist Emanuel Goldberg developed the first plastic pipette jars and founded the Nalge Company. Because of that, today our products are manufactured in FDA/GMP certified facilities, which are held to stringent specifications, and our products are held to the highest scientific standards. That’s definitely quality you won’t find anywhere else.
Environmental Benefits: How Sustainable Are Water Bottles Made in the USA?
So all of this information leads us to the question: are products made in the USA much more sustainable than their international counterparts, or is it all a lot of hot gas? Believe it or not, experts believe that generally speaking, products made in the USA are actually much more sustainable than products made overseas. US manufacturers have been cited as being among the most energy efficient in the world, and factories in the US have to adhere to laws such as the Clean Air Act, while factories in other countries may not have such strict guidelines in place.
While every product and company should be looked at individually, the proof is in the pollution: USA-made products typically leave behind a smaller carbon footprint than imports from other countries.
Ethical Dilemmas: The Ethical Cost Of International Labor
There’s another factor to consider when you buy products from other countries, and that’s the potential ethical cost of international labor. Don’t get us wrong, many international manufactures can and do employ ethical employee practices. But we know for a fact that unfortunately, this often isn’t the case.
International labor, often responsible for “cheap” or inexpensive products, can carry a huge ethical human toll, and we know that oftentimes, this labor is even carried out under forced conditions, in labor camps and detention facilities. Even workers who are paid might be making incredibly low wages and working brutally long hours, and could very well be working under dangerous conditions.
This is no secret in the retail world, and many major American companies that rely on international factories for their products conduct inspections of the facilities they use. But the truth is it actually can be quite tricky to accurately inspect these factories abroad. Sometimes factories will hide the truth of their working conditions and put on a show for the inspection, when in reality, things are much worse than they appear. So while there is an inspection system in place, it is very flawed, and these inspections usually fail to catch even small issues in working conditions and employee treatment. The sad truth is that many products which end up on our store shelves might look harmless enough, but they carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, because the people who create many of these products are doing so under dangerous or forced conditions.
But with products made here in the USA, you know that this simply isn’t the case. For example, reusable water bottles made in the US are manufactured in facilities governed by our many labor laws and regulations. There are strict laws about minimum wage, unsafe conditions, and even workers compensation, if you get hurt while at work. When you choose to sip from a bottle that’s made in America, you’re also ensuring the conditions of the people responsible for that bottle.
Global Supply Chain Disruptions
Lastly, another factor that might impact water bottles that are made in other countries are disruptions in the global supply chain. While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes and disruptions in the world, it also exposed some major issues in the global supply chain. When products are made far away overseas, they’re at the mercy of many factors, and their supply chain can easily be disrupted.
For a specific example, a shortage in shipping containers due to the pandemic drove up shipping prices of goods that came to the U.S. from China. It’s easy to see how in instances like this, where products are at the mercy of the global supply chain, there can be price fluctuations, increased shipping costs, shortages, and delays. On the other hand, when a bottle is made right here in the USA, you know that none of those factors will impact the bottle in your hands.
Proud To Be An American
When you choose Nalgene, you know that your “Made in the USA” water bottle is not only of the highest quality, but also is kinder on the environment, and on the labor force, than a bottle from somewhere else. You know that the Nalgene in your backpack was created in a factory that was held to stringent workplace and labor standards, and that its carbon footprint is as small as possible.
When we fill up our Nalgenes, we do so knowing that we’re not adding to the 2.5 million bottles that are trashed every hour in the United States. Yeah, that’s a number that makes our jaws drop too. Here at Nalgene, we make bottles that are designed to be part of the refill process, not the landfill. By producing our bottles right here in the USA, we’re lightening the load on the planet, one Nalgene at a time.
We made it in America, now it's time for you to make it your own.
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