Once you’ve come to the realization that single use water bottles make no sense, the next step is figuring out how to break yourself of the bottled water habit. For some, simply realizing that you are wasting water, wasting money, and polluting the planet is enough, but for others the process can be a little tougher. So here, dear reader, is a (hopefully) simple way to stop.
I should start by saying that I am a firm believer that tap water in most parts of the United States (note I said “most”) is perfectly drinkable and not to be worried about at all. I’ve been drinking tap water since I was a kid and it is my personal opinion that the media tends to try to make us afraid of everything and as a result, and with some help from water bottle manufacturers, we have all been duped into thinking our water is no good.
Having said that, I recognize that there are still folks out there who have concerns about their tap water quality, some of them even justified, and I think it’s important to address these concerns right from the get go. The first thing to do is check out what’s in your water. While these reports from the EPA can be a bit dry (pun intended), they are worth perusing if you seriously want to know what’s in your ice cubes.
Another option, if you are concerned that perhaps the water in your area is good but the pipes in your personal dwelling are adding contaminants, is to get your water tested. Home tests
are available from $19.95 on up while a full lab testwill run you around $150 or more. While I can’t vouch for either of these companies personally, I have heard that both are reputable, but as always, do your homework before you buy.
Once you’ve tested your water, you may find that you want to get a water filter. While there are many many filters to choose from, here’s a quick lowdown on the types of filters available to start you down the river (again with the puns).
Carafe Filters ($20 and up). These filters resemble a pitcher of water that you fill up from the sink and keep in the fridge. An internal filter cartridge, which needs to be replaced every few months (depending on use), filters out bad odors, tastes and certain chemicals as well. Carafes are better for smaller households that don’t use a lot of water but can be slow, especially as the filter gets clogged. One thing to consider is the environmental impact of those filters and whether or not they can be recycled. If you happen to use a Brita, check out the Take Back The Filter Campaign to better understand the problem.
Faucet Mounted Filters ($20 and up). These filters actually screw on to your faucet where the aerator would be. They work about the same as the carafe filters but also have short life filters (due to size) and some folks don’t like them as much due to their appearance on your faucet.
Countertop/Undersink Filters ($50 and up). These filters are essentially the same accept, as their names suggest, one sits on the counter and one underneath the counter, the latter requiring a little more work to install. They generally do a better job than the previous two filters due to the larger size of their filter cartridges–many having multiple filters for different impurities.
Reverse Osmosis Filters ($150 and up). Reverse Osmosis is sort of the grand poobah of filter systems. It’s a pretty involved process that rids your water of almost all of the yucky stuff you may be worried about. That said, they are more expensive, generally require professional installation and professional maintenance (more money) and most importantly, waste gallons of water for every gallon purified due to how the water is cleaned. In my opinion, in a world where drinking water is at a premium, anything that wastes this precious resource, is wrong. I’m not saying that reverse osmosis systems don’t have their place, but rather that in most peoples homes they are overkill and a huge waste of resources (boy am I going to hear about it on that one).
Whole House Filters ($200 and up). Like the name implies, these filters clean all of the water coming into your house, not just the tap water. Unless your water is horrible, I also think these are overkill as no one really needs pure drinking water coming from every tap in their home. On top of that, if you read the fine print, many whole house systems don’t clean the water to the extent that an under sink or faucet mount system will. Again, they have their place, but more often than not are unnecessary.
I know this is a little bit of a simplistic list, but it’s a place to start. Consider the costs involved, including the amount you’ll pay per year for the filter, what you are looking for in a filter, and the longevity of the company. After all, you don’t want to buy from the Acme Water Company of America only to find a year later that the president, W.E. Coyote, has run it into the ground and you no longer can get filter cartridges. A quick google came up with this site, which seems to have a pretty good comparisons of systems.
Now that you’ve considered your water quality, decided if you need a filter system, and read this far in the post, it’s time to talk about bottles. For my money, the only way to go with water bottles is metal. After the bisphenol A scare, it seems to me that it is just a matter of time before they find other chemicals leaching out of plastics. Besides that, let’s face it, that plastic water bottle may be a little cheaper, but eventually, it’s gonna break, and when it does, into the landfill it goes. Better to get yourself a metal water bottle that’s more durable and will last 10 years or more.
Right now there are three companies I’m liking for reusable water bottles: Ecousable, Kleen Kanteen and Sigg. Ecousable and Kleen Kanteen make all stainless steel bottles while Sigg bottles are aluminum with an inner protective lining. All of the companies sell different colored bottles in various sizes with all sorts of different tops, holders, connectors and who knows what else so you can find something that makes you smile. I’ve tried all three and have found none of them to have any kind of metallic taste, after initial washing that is, so no need to worry about that.
The bottles may seem a bit pricey, ranging from $10-$30, but when you realize that they will last for 5-10 years or more, and then consider the money you’ll be saving by not buying plastic water bottles, you’ll quickly see that the math makes sense. In addition, for those of you on the go who are worried about water quality, in November, Ecousable will be offering a bottle that has a built-in filtration system. How cool is that?
So there you have it. It’s a little bit of a monetary outlay right off the bat, but in the long run, you’ll see that it pays off, makes environmental sense, and even more importantly, your friends will think you’re swell and your boss will give you a raise (please note: results may vary and are not guaranteed).
So how about it? Ready to kick the plastic water bottle habit?
Dave Chameides is an environmental educator and freelance filmmaker. He writes alternative fuel articles for Edmunds.com and maintains the blogs 365 Days of Trash and Achieving Sustainability. While he is presently saving all of his trash for a year to better understand his environmental impact, his main focus is sustainability through education and believes that with knowledge all things are possible.