Liquid Death is not alcohol, an energy drink, or soda, contrary to how the packaging makes it look. It is instead simply canned water. Liquid Death’s goal is to make drinking water more sustainable while also making it appear cool and fun for people who do not drink alcohol or soda. Their tag lines include “Murder Your Thirst” and “Keep the Underworld Beautiful.” In addition to this hard core branding, Liquid Death has created two full length punk rock albums about the water, a horror movie featuring the Liquid Death can as the villain, and a line of plushies called Cutie Polluties, which are sea animals covered in blood and plastic waste (made from 100% recycled plastic or bioplastics). A 12 pack of their mountain water retails for $14.99, or $1.24 per 16.9oz tallboy can. This is very comparable to other water brands out there, being basically the exact same price as the average plastic bottled water. When I first saw this product on the shelves of my local store, it made me do a double take. Their marketing definitely catches the eye, and makes buying sustainable products cool instead of just responsible. The materials Liquid Death use in their products are very environmentally friendly, yet they lack transparency on factory conditions, resulting in them only scoring a 1.5/3 planets.
Liquid Death is a fairly simple product: canned water. The cans are standard aluminum cans, which are made of around 70% recycled aluminum. As Liquid Death’s website points out, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, versus how plastic cannot really be recycled well. The website also acknowledges that 75% of all the aluminum produced since 1888 is still in use. Their water is sourced and canned from an underground source in the Austrian Alps, and contains over two times the amount of electrolytes as the leading bottled water brands. Liquid Death includes a water quality report on their website, which shows that their water meets EPA and FDA standards. This report states that the water is filtered and pasteurized to remove any microbiological contaminants. The case the cans come in is made of recyclable cardboard. Each case also includes limited edition artwork, which fits well with Liquid Deaths branding of making drinking more sustainable water cool. To get a full 3/3 planet rating, they should attempt to make their packaging out of recycled materials as well. But besides that, there is not much more Liquid Death could do to make the materials they use more sustainable.
Sadly there is not much information on the production process used to make Liquid Death. They do not include anything about sustainable practices while canning their water, and indicate no attempts to reduce emissions from their manufacturing process. Liquid Death doesn’t even state that their water is being accessed in a way that doesn’t over pump aquifers. For a brand that is based on being more sustainable than their competitors, this was very disheartening to see. Liquid Death also doesn’t mention what factory conditions their employees work under. Given that the water is canned in Austria, and Austria is part of the EU, we can assume the company functions under European manufacturing regulations, which are stricter than US standards when it comes to environmental degradation and working conditions. However, it is odd for a company to not mention if they have a code of ethics or any sort of workers protections. The manufacturer of Liquid Death is Supplying Demand Inc, which is based in Santa Monica California. This indicates that after being canned in Austria, the product is shipped to the US and then shipped to consumers, which means a lot of emissions to get the product from its source to the consumer. When it comes to water however, this may be the cost we have to accept as most aquifers in the US are being over pumped in an unsustainable way. With all that Liquid Death is doing to ensure sustainable materials in their product, it's sad to see a lack of transparency about their production process.
The founder of Liquid Death is Mike Cessario, who was formerly the creative director of Netflix. He started the company in 2019 and expanded to sparkling water in 2020. In an interview with Forbes, Cessario mentioned that healthy lifestyles are traditionally marked to a niche group of people, whereas the more edgy sides of our society that listen to punk rock and such get marketed to by soda and alcohol companies. With Liquid Death, Cessario wanted to make drinking water fun and more appealing, while also being more sustainable. I have to give props to Liquid Death, because while scouring their website, I wanted to buy everything they sold (and I have multiple reusable water bottles, aka no need for canned water besides the better quality). Liquid Death additionally has a section on their website labeled “Loving Homes for Plastic.” This initiative sends consumers prepaid postal packaging with either PepsiCo or Coca-Cola’s address label on it. The program allows consumers to send their plastic bottles back to their creators, with the passive aggressive statement of “Plastic isn't actually recyclable, so we thought you might want this back.” While I love this concept, and am always a fan of holding big corporations responsible, I’m not sure if the carbon emissions required to mail back a plastic bottle is worth it. Along with this initiative, 10% of the profit from each can is donated to various nonprofits dedicated to fighting the plastic problem and donating water to those in need. These partners include 5 Gyres and Thirst Project. 5 Gyres uses education, science, and adventure to fight against the plastic pollution crisis. Thirst Project builds freshwater wells in communities that face water scarcity in order to helps fight the global water crisis. While these partners are a great step in the right direction, I would love to see some more direct sustainability and ethical practices within the company itself. To get a better planet rating, Liquid Death should be more transparent about their manufacturing process and how they are ensuring protecting their employees along with the planet.