By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | August 23, 2007
We haven’t really written much here on Tiny Choices about bottled water issues yet, so until we talk about it in detail let’s just move forward from the understanding that single-use plastic water bottles are the modern plague of locusts (feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. And props to Denver for a supercool water conservation campaign. But I digress.)
So if we as a culture need to stop using disposable water bottles, but we as human beings still need to drink our daily fill, how are we supposed to carry around the blue gold? Rule #1 is that it’s about a gazillion times more ecologically sound to use what’s already been produced rather than to buy something new. So if you already own vessels which can carry water, and if they function well enough, then just use them. Because otherwise there’s a whole process of energy and pollution that’s going to happen for all but the greenest products, and it’s incredibly important to avoid this whenever possible. But sometimes you really do need (oh, come on, or just want) to buy a new water bottle. And for those times, here’s my short list of options. (Sometimes I think we spend way too much time thinking about these things. And when I say “we” I mean “me.”)
Pros: Safe for you because glass doesn’t leach any harmful chemicals. Free, as you can repurpose jam jars or tomato sauce jars into a second life as your water bottle– and thus they are zero-impact for the same reuse reasons. They also have a certain farmhouse appeal that I really love, but maybe that’s just me.
Cons: Generally, glass jars are too heavy to carry around all the time–which isn’t necessarily a problem if you live a car-based life or if you have a sherpa. Also, they’re breakable.
Pros: The bottles are nearly unbreakable, which makes them incredibly useful for ourdoor activities. Their “Refill not Landfill” campaign to reduce disposable plastic bottles is admirable, even if it’s obvious what their motivation is. All the colors of the rainbow.
Cons: The Lexan ones (aka “the pretty ones”) are made from polycarbonate (plastic #7), which may/probably does leach bisphenol A into your body and mess with your hormones. The HDPE ones (plastic #2) are not known to leach, but, you know, they’re still plastic. The Nalge Nunc Corporation (makers of the Nalgene bottles) also produce plastic animal-testing medical equipment [warning: link contains sad photo of a trapped bunny rabbit]
Pros: Made from aluminum (extremly lightweight) with a baked-on propriatary micro-thin epoxy liner which they declare 100% safe/leach-free. The bottles don’t absorb flavors from liquids, and I actually think that water tastes better from them (unscientific personal opinion). Backpacker Magazine (6/06) declared them “The World’s Toughest Water Bottle.” The bottle is in MoMAs permanent collection–fancy! They are recyclable at the end of their lifecycle. They are, by far, the prettiest bottles around.
Cons: The lid is made from plastic (polypropylene #5, which they say has no known leaching characteristics). Though the exterior paint is solvent-free, does that mean it’s eco-neutral? What’s the manufacturing process for that epoxy liner? Manufactured in Switzerland, so there’s a big carbon footprint to get ‘em over here, and aluminum is resource-intensive.
Pros: The bottles are 100% stainless steel, which is an inert material, and thus no need for an inner liner. There is minimal printing on the outside of the bottles (and so minimal pollution from the manufacture/shipping/printing of those inks). They also make sippy cups for kids. The bottles are recyclable at the end of their lifecycle.
Cons: The outside of the lid is made from plastic (polypropylene #5, which they say has no known leaching characteristics). The inside of the lid is made from stainless steel, and here’s my problem with this–when I screwed the lid (metal) into the bottle (metal), this feeling and sound of metal against metal made my skin crawl–so although I think that Klean Kanteen is the most eco-option of the bunch I actually returned mine to the store for this reason–I realized I would cringe when it was time to drink, and thus might end up dying of thirst. Made in China, aka Big Carbon Footprint. And I’m pretty sure that steel mining is just as bad as every other kind of mining.
Reused Disposable Water Bottles
Pros: Free, because there’s lots of them.
Cons: There’s lots of them. Also, they leach toxic chemicals into the water and thus into you. Also, they harbor harmful bacteria after a few uses.
My personal water bottle audit: I’ve got a whole bunch of old Lexan Nalgenes which I still use for outdoor activities, bisphenol A be damned. I carry my pretty and lightweight Sigg bottle around for day-to-day use. And I occasionally do still use single-use disposable water bottles, but I really really try not to.
So what’s your water bottle habit look like? And do you think that we as a consumer culture are overthinking this whole thing? Or is it just me?
Photo courtesy of lukasd2009 on Flickr.com, via Creative Commons
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