Pamplemousse (grapefruit in French) is my favorite flavor, but cucumber blackberry is a close second. There’s something especially satisfying about popping the aluminum tab and the cold, bubbly burn as that first, essenced sip fizzles down your throat.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about La Croix, the fruity cans of carbonated water that have recently surged in popularity. The La Croix craze seems to be everywhere: on coffee mugs reading “La Croix before boys,” in internet memes and even in Halloween costumes.
My mom rarely lets us buy La Croix for the house. But sometimes, just sometimes, I go to the beverage case in my school cafeteria and pay $1.75 for 12 ounces of that canned, fruity, nutrition-less liquid. My mom calls La Croix “little cans of privilege.” I begrudgingly agree. Water spiked with just the right amount of “essence,” bottled in a single use aluminum can and flown or boated or trucked to your exact location is, of course, totally preposterous. Yet only when I started doing more research into the implications of my La Croix indulgences did I realize the ramifications that come from this blatant disregard for our resources.
If you can afford to buy LaCroix, you can afford to pay for water that doesn’t come out of your kitchen sink. According to the World Health Organization, 844 million people lack access to a basic drinking water source, 159 million people are dependent on surface water and at least two billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces. In a world where water is a daily struggle, you get to drink water that comes in rainbow aluminum and has the essence of key lime pie.
In low and middle-income countries, 35 percent of health care facilities lack water and soap for handwashing. If you drink La Croix, of course, you have access to these amenities, but you are privileged enough to disregard the (literally) flowing resources in your home, school and workplaces, and pay extra for what you already have.
By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. That could very well be you or me. The cause? Climate change—caused in part by the production of beverages like La Croix. New aluminum cans are almost always made from bauxite. The United States gets bauxite from mines in countries such as Guinea and Australia. To mine bauxite, miners scrape deep pits into the landscape, which contributes to increased erosion, habitat loss, and, you guessed it, water contamination.
Our La Croix habit literally contaminates the drinking water of the often poor, disenfranchised people who mine for it. While La Croix cans may have “innocent” printed on the label, a lack of calories does not equate to a lack of responsibility.
We seem to think that we are immune from the consequences of our carbon footprint. We place our thirst for momentary indulgence above the suffering of those who make our indulgences possible. We are naive.
In researching La Croix and the devastating effects of our cans of privilege, I began to wonder: what effect would the consumers of La Croix have if they stopped buying bubbly water and instead used that money to combat water insecurity and climate change? What if we could forgo our craving for Pamplemousse and instead utilize our privilege for good?
In writing this post, I’ve pledged to cut my La Croix habit. I urge you to do the same, or at the very least to just cut back. What if we all thought twice before we purchased a single-use plastic or metal beverage container? What might our oceans look like if we lived without that Boba tea or those ubiquitous plastic travel coffee lids? Can we stop for a moment and savor the handcrafted hot beverage? Or do we have to run down the street while we drink it?
Many of us have the privilege to use our money for bubbly, unnecessary pleasures, but think about how much good we could do if we used our privilege in more responsible, justice-focused ways. We are lucky to have the opportunity to make a change. Let’s not waste it.
Molly Weiner is a junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco.