Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Bottled Water or Tap

Subject Area



9, 10, 11, 12


“The Story of Bottled Water” video tells the story of how Americans are influenced to purchase more than half a billion bottles of water every week when tap water is less expensive and sometimes healthier than bottled water. The environmental effects of plastic water bottles add up to billions of bottles in landfills each year. The nonrenewable materials needed to package the bottled water add up to a mountain of problems that have a negative impact on the environment. The website also includes “Act, Learn, and Share” links to lead students and teachers into getting involved. This link is a great entry event for environmental education with the potential to develop into a project-based learning topic integrating all subject areas. 

This activity was created as a result of the GAP Resource Summit.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Environmental Science


    Investigate and analyze the use of nonrenewable energy sources (e.g., fossil fuels, nuclear, natural gas) and renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal) and propose solutions for their impact on the environment.

    Unpacked Content



    • renewable resource
    • nonrenewable resource
    • consumption rate
    • sustainability
    • environmental policy
    • conservation (Law of Conservation of Energy)
    • 3 R's = reduce, reuse, recycle
    • fossil fuels
    • pollution
    • energy efficiency
    • resource extraction and harnessing
    • alternative energy
    • waste
    • mining
    • reclamation
    • remediation
    • mitigation
    • biomass
    • hydroelectric
    • geothermal
    • nuclear energy
    • natural gas
    • wind turbine
    • solar power
    • hybrid
    • hydrogen fuel cell


    Students know:
    • Examples of renewable energy sources and nonrenewable energy sources, and the uses of each.
    • The origin of different types of nonrenewable energy sources.
    • How various types of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources are harvested, how harvesting may impact the surrounding environment, and how to reduce any negative impacts of harvesting these resources.
    • How various types of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources are used, how using them may impact the environment, and how to reduce any negative impacts of using these resources.
    • The sustainability of human societies and environmental biodiversity require responsible management of natural resources, including renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.


    Students are able to:
    • Identify various types of energy resources.
    • Explain how various nonrenewable and renewable resources are used to provide energy.
    • Analyze geographical data to ascertain resource availability and sustainability.
    • Evaluate environmental strategies that promote energy resource sustainability.
    • Design and/or refine a solution to mitigate negative impacts of using nonrenewable and renewable energy sources, or evaluate available design solutions based on scientific principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments.


    Students understand that:
    • All forms of energy production and resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical benefits as well as costs and risks.
    • Scientific knowledge indicates what can happen in natural systems, not what should happen. What should happen involves ethics, values, and human decisions about the use of existing knowledge.
    • Environmental feedback, whether negative or positive, can stabilize or destabilize a system.
    • It is important to consider a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to take into account social, cultural, and environmental impacts when developing and/or evaluating solutions.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Analyzing and Interpreting Data

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    identify water as a renewable resource.

    recognize that plastic bottles use nonrenewable resources.

    propose solutions to the problem with using plastic bottles to bottle water.

    Activity Details

    1. First students will watch a video describing how Americans buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows virtually free from the tap. The bottles are made from oil, a nonrenewable resource, and then disposed of causing a problem when all of the bottles end up in a landfill, in the local water supply, and eventually in the ocean.

    2. Students will complete a Quick Write describing the problem with bottled water. Students will describe ways that they can reduce the use of bottled water.

    3.  Students will conduct research using available technology to answer the following questions. Students could use Chromebooks, tablets, or available computers to find the answers to the questions. This could be completed in groups or individually according to the availability of technology to complete the research.

    • Is bottled water cleaner?
    • Is bottled water tastier? 
    • Is bottled tap different than plain tap?
    • What is the energy footprint of water bottles?

    4. Students will turn and share their findings with another student.

    5. The student will be able to discuss and evaluate the connection between the impact they have on their environment and correlate it to their ecological footprint related to using bottled water.

    6. Students should keep track of how many bottles of water they use during the week. Keep a class tally of how many bottles they use in one week. Record the number of bottles used by the class during the week and post it in an obvious place in the room.

    8. As a class, students debate ways to cut down on the number of bottles they use.


    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    1. Students will give one piece of evidence from their research in the form of a Quick Write that supports the following.
    • Water is a renewable resource.
    • Overuse of plastic water bottles can cause problems with either land or ocean pollution.
    • Propose one solution to the problem of using plastic bottles.
    1. After students complete the Think-Pair-Share, each group will report their findings to the class and each individual student will turn in answers to the following questions to the teacher at the end of class. 
    • Is bottled water cleaner?
    • Is bottled water tastier? 
    • Is bottled tap different than plain tap?
    • What is the energy footprint of water bottles?

    Variation Tips

    Students can explore the “Act, Learn, and Share” links to discuss the problem with bottled water and what they can do about it to conserve nonrenewable resources.  

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    Students should be able to identify the nonrenewable resources that are required for bottling and packaging drinking water.

    Digital Tools / Resources