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The Seattle Times:

One evening, while Namshin Kim, was trying on clothes at Nordstrom, a salesperson offered her a bottle of water with the store’s label.

Pleased with the freebie, she took it with her as she left.

“I’m happy,’’ she said, nursing the 8-ounce bottle at a table just outside the store. “I like it.’’

Nordstrom buys bottled water from Kirkland, Wash.-based Bottle Your Brand and is one of the company’s largest clients.

Test-drive a Lexus and you may be offered a free bottle of water, complete with the Lexus logo. Dentists, doctors, chiropractors, salons, convention centers — all offer their own house water.

By finding their niche in the $10-billion-per-year bottled-water industry, cousins Scott and Adam Springer parlayed a $10,000 small-business loan into a $2 million revenue stream in 2007.

The two launched their business in 2004, after Scott Springer, now 31, noticed that the bottled-water section of the grocery store was as big as the beer section.

At first, they worked out of Scott Springer’s grandmother’s basement in Edmonds. Now they have a 4,500-square-foot office in Kirkland and last year sold more than 2 million bottles.

But even as marketers are quenching customers’ thirst with free branded plastic bottles, environmentalists are urging us to kick the bottled-water habit.

Plastic bottles clog landfills, create greenhouse gases and take excess energy to produce, and the industry undermines faith in municipal water systems, they say.

Americans today swill more than twice as much bottled water as they did a decade ago, averaging 27.6 gallons per person per year.

Sales of bottled water jumped 10 percent between 2006 and 2007, according to the International Bottled Water Association, a trade group.

Photo by vivekchugh.

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Originally posted by Rich Whittle on March 27, 2008 in Ideas.

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