Green tip for week #3– Week of May 18, 2008

Use a reusable water bottle, and do the environment (and your wallet) a favor!

Do you buy water in disposable plastic water bottles, only to end up throwing out or recycling each bottle once you are done with it? If so, why?

The seemingly small decision you make to drink water form a disposable bottle results in wasted fossil fuels in manufacturing and filling those bottle, wasted resources and energy in transporting them through distributors and ultimately to retailers, and wasted fuel and money going to the store to buy them time and time again, and with up to 86% of those bottles finding their way into landfills in the United States, it creates needless and excessive waste.

Even though you may like the convenience and reliability of getting water in disposable bottles, there are significant financial and environmental costs to that “convenience”. A simple, affordable, and eco-friendly alternative is to begin using reusable water bottles. Using a reusable bottle with good old tap water is not only incredibly inexpensive, but it reduces your total impact on the environment. Our green tip suggestion this week is to start doing this today, and the ideas below should help.

If you don’t like tap water, or the water in your area doesn’t meet your expectations, use filtered water by keeping a pitcher like a Brita or Pur filtration pitcher full of cold and clean water in the fridge. Even better yet, install a water filter into your drinking water supply in your home, or even a filter at the end of the faucet, like those available from Pur and Brita. We recently switched from a Brita pitcher to a Pur filter on our faucet, and couldn’t be happier. Clean and delicious water is ready at the tap anytime we want, and the filters last longer than those for the pitchers. You can use the water for cooking, coffee, drinking water, tea, and more.

So what reusable bottle do you get? Anything that you will actually use. If it sits in your closet, it defeats the purpose. Buy a bottle you like, and one that you believe you will be able to have and use for a long time. I have used Nalgene bottles for over a decade, but in light of the concerns over BPA (see this site for more info), I have chosen to recycle or repurpose my old Lexan polycarbonate Nalgenes.

Instead, I have opted for a couple different bottles, both from Klean Kanteen and Sigg. Keep in mind that not all plastic bottles contain BPA, and there are even conflicting reports about how harmful BPA is and what levels you are exposed to from using polycarbonate water bottles. That said, I don’t want to take any chances. This post is not about BPA, but if you want to find more information about BPA, including links to additional resources, visit SustainRenew.org.

If you are looking for a good bottle, visit your local outdoors outfitter like REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, or other similar stores. Or, go online to check the offerings from companies such as Sigg, Klean Kanteen and others. Camelbak and Nalgene both now offer BPA-free plastic bottles, but be sure to do your research or read the labels to know which are the old polycarbonate/Lexan that contain BPA, and which are not. I personally chose Sigg and Klean Kanteen because I like the design, the quality of construction, and the fact that they are not made from plastic.

Here’s a mini-review of reusable bottles I would recommend:

  1. Sigg bottles. Sigg bottles (made in Switzerland) are constructed form aluminum and lined with a taste-free, non-leaching epoxy substance that they state is proven safe. Sigg bottles are slightly more susceptible to dents and dings than Klean Kanteen (and definitely more susceptible than plastic, but they have a huge variety of designs, sizes and styles, and are quite taste-neutral. In fact, the first time I drank filtered water from a Sigg bottle, it was a dramatic and noticeable difference from the Nalgene bottles I had used previously. I find that with the narrow top of these bottles, it makes it very easy to drink without spilling (particularly outdoors or while hiking), and I really like the design and build quality of these bottles. As an added bonus, they are fully recyclable at the end of their useful life (which should be a very long time). These come in sizes ranging from small kids versions (tied that too, kids love them!) to .6 liter, 1.0 liter, and a larger 40 oz. container. There are a variety of twist-off lids as well as sport tops (like in a traditional bike bottle), and an extraordinary amount of designs from plain colors to very unique patterns and graphics, so you can find basically whatever you want in a Sigg bottle.
  2. Klean Kanteen bottles. Klean Kanteen are made from food-grade stainless steel (like what you see in a brewery, transporting dairy products, etc.), and they are not lined with anything. The Klean Kanteen offers a larger opening (nice if you want to drop an ice cube in) and a lid that twists off more quickly than Sigg (fewer, wider threads). Although some people comment that they can detect a very slightly metallic taste to the water, that has not been very noticeable to me. The fine folks at Klean Kanteen are so confident in their product, they even offer a one-year warranty against defects. I’ve been very happy with these bottles as well, and there is something very utilitarian and practical about these bottles that make them a great choice for an every day, lug-it-around-everywhere reusable water bottle. They come in sizes ranging from a perfect 12 oz. bottle for kids, to 18, 27, and 40 oz options.
  3. Nalgene (BPA free versions). Nalgene is the classic water bottle of outdoor enthusiasts, in large part because of its versatility and durability. The fact that many of their lexan/polycarbonate bottles contained BPA doesn’t mean they have a bad product; in fact, canned goods and other products widely consumed today still contain BPA. Nalgene, to their credit, has been working diligently to respond to BPA concerns and they have retooled their website to feature BPA free alternatives, and they announced in April that they are phasing out their bottles that contained BPA completely (see article here). Nalgene bottles still represents a cost-effective, simple, practical, and durable choice for a reusable water bottle.
  4. Camelbak and others (BPA free versions). Although I don’t have personal experience with the BPA free plastic bottle offerings from Camelbak and other non-Nalgene brands, but I’m sure they work fine. Many of these options are less expensive than the metal Sigg and Klean Kanteen bottles, and they tend to be a little less prone to damage (these plastics don’t get dents & dings). Again, the key issue to this weekly green tip isn’t what the coolest or best designed bottle is – the message is to find one that works for you, buy it, use it, reuse it, and encourage a friend to do the same (reducing the overall waste and damage to the environment in the process).

The bottom line is that if you switch to reusable water bottles, drastically reducing or eliminating your use of water contained in disposable bottles, you are doing the environment a very real favor. You are also helping your pocketbook in the meantime. Lugging your personal and unique bottle around may even be a conversation starter, and can help you advance the dialogue about environmental responsibility and sustainability with your friends and coworkers.

Please refer others to Green52.org for this and other green tips and ideas for environmental responsibility. We have a new green living tip each and every week, so stop back soon and often.

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