Why Carbonated Water is Having a Moment (and an Environmental Impact)

February 23, 2016

My addiction to infatuation with sparkling water began in college. Like other college loves, it all started in the dining hall, next to the soda fountain. But unlike other college loves (that we need not revisit), this one lasted beyond graduation.

I've kept tabs on my college one-and-only (don't we all?) and noticed that he's it's been in the news now more than ever:

  • It's become cool: In the last five years, sparkling water has begun to eclipse its "Sparkling or still?" competitor. The industry has doubled over the past five years, with Wisconsin's (not France's) LaCroix taking the lead with a 75% increase in its stock.
  • But it may be bad for your ivories: While flat water has a neutral pH of 7, sparkling water is slightly more acidic (around 5.5), and flavored sparkling waters can be even more acidic and corrosive as orange juice, according to The Atlantic. Over time, this can damage teeth enamel.

When you go to @target 🙌🏼🙌🏼 #livelacroix

A photo posted by LaCroix Sparkling Water (@lacroixwater) on

Yesterday, carbonated water appeared on my news feed again, when Bloomberg reported that the environmental footprint of carbonated water may be reduced (or even reversed). A Zurich-based company, Climeworks, has found a way to suck the environment-harming greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out of the air to use in fizzy drinks. (While carbon dioxide isn't harmful to us, those bubbles can be incredibly harmful to the environment—carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas and it's currently supplied by chemical companies, sourced from fossil fuels.)

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The process isn't perfect—the carbon dioxide gets released back into the air as soon as you open your freshly carbonated SodaStream bottle (think of the satisfying pop when you open a can of soda)—but at least it won't be coming from millions-year-old organic matter.

Maybe it's time that the two of us reconnect...

Have you been drinking way more carbonated water recently? Did you bump into it on the subway? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tammy
  • david the iced coffee addict
    david the iced coffee addict
  • victoria.crispo
  • Nikki
  • Melanie Craig
    Melanie Craig
I eat everything.


Tammy February 24, 2016
I enjoy plain seltzer as well as Polar Grapefruit Seltzer. It has grapefruit essence, but not full on flavoring and no additional sweeteners, etc. I don't buy club soda as it has too much salt. I've been drinking charged water for years and have considered purchasing my own siphon, but they are quite spendy as are the chargers. For now, I'll stick with the less trendy bottled stuff and just recycle.
david T. February 24, 2016
A splash of whole milk and a healthy couple O spoonfuls of chocolate syrup neutralizes the environmentally harmful effect of seltzer fizzy by 98%; throw in a butter flavored pretzel log and the C02 is reduced to 99%.
victoria.crispo February 24, 2016
I've been drinking seltzer/carbonated water since I was 4- tried it and completely lost my taste for soda. Even today, the taste of soda is extremely unappealing to me.
Nikki February 24, 2016
We made a homemade DIY carbonating contraption using a CO2 tank, some food grade tubing and pressure gauges. There is zero waste, no shipping or transport costs (aside from the initial purchase), and minimal cost. We simply have to refill the tank every 12-18 months. The process of making sparkling water is slightly more labor intensive than a Sodastream but the cost and environmental savings are well worth it. If you're concerned about environmental impact but love sparkling water, this is the way to go!
Melanie C. February 24, 2016
Living in Italy, I started drinking Lita and Ferrarelle. Now in the UK. I just buy the San Pellegrino. It's alright, nothing on the natural Ferrarelle. But it doesn't taste the same out of Italy anyway. However I try to drink normal water too. The only things I drink, are coffee and water, and the occasional milk.
Regine February 24, 2016
I meant carbonated not carbonatex.
Regine February 24, 2016
I am obsessed with carbonatex water too. It is the best drink for me when i am thirsty or exercising. My husband and kids love it too but I admit I am a bit worried about its effect on tooth enamel but not enough to stop drinking it.
Mary E. February 23, 2016
Make 2 qts. a day from my own mountain spring H2O & add nothing to it..Is it still harming my teeth & leaching the calcium from my elderly bones? And now I'm harming our fragile planet?!?! I promise that all my acres of vegetable gardening is done organically! The only thing I could possibly trade my spring water seltzer for would be a lovely bourbon...hmmmmm, now I'm really in a conundrum??!!
dinner A. February 23, 2016
I think most of the environmental cost of carbonated water only applies to bottled carbonated water -- the energy and materials used to bottle and transport it (same as for bottled still water). There is some environmental cost to manufacturing and shipping the CO2 cartridges for home carbonation machines, but I'm pretty sure that's a lot smaller.
The low pH of carbonated water comes directly from dissolving CO2 in water, which forms carbonic acid -- this will be the same regardless of whether you buy or make your own carbonated water. If you read the Atlantic article the author links to above, it sounds like plain carbonated water is not SO bad, but many of the flavorings people add make it more acidic still. 2 quarts sounds like a lot though.
Mary E. February 23, 2016
1 qt. for my husband and 1 for myself!!! Will read the Atlantic article & thanks for your valuable feedback.
zuzu447 February 23, 2016
I drink three (cold) drinks. Unsweetened ice tea (many flavors and combinations) which I cold brew, plain water with citrus essential oils in it, and seltzer -- lots of seltzer. I love seltzer. I have always loved seltzer. I drink it plain. I drink it with citrus essential oils in it. I drink it flavored (but not sweetened). I drink it with two ounces of fruit juice to 20 ounces of seltzer. I had no idea I might be harming the environment; but, as I am green on so many other ways, I could not stop even if that wonderful Swiss company were not bailing me out. I am upset that it might be hurting my tooth enamel; but I doubt if even that will stop me. I am addicted or obsessed or whatever you want to call it. I have given up so much in the name of health -- seltzer will not be another.
Leslie S. February 23, 2016
True love knows no bounds (agreed—I'd be hard-press to give it up!)