Greening Your Kitchen: Say 'Buh-Bye' to Bottled Water

Monday, April 7, 2008

Greening Your Kitchen logoI'm afraid that I have some bad news. Although drinking bottled water may seem like a harmless, even a healthy, thing to do, it's actually a really bad habit.

Those bottles of cold, crystal clear, fresh spring water may become considerably less appealing if you consider the following factoids (courtesy of the
Center for a New American Dream, Grist, and Treehugger.)

Purity
* 25%-40% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is actually just tap water (in a plastic bottle.)

* Tap water is actually more strictly regulated than bottled water. The EPA monitors all tap water while the FDA regulates only some bottled water.
* A four-year study of bottled water in the U.S. conducted by NRDC found that one-fifth of the 103 water products tested contained synthetic organic chemicals such as the neurotoxin xylene and the possible carcinogen and neurotoxin styrene.

Lots of bottled water by Brett Weinstein
Cost
* Tap water costs roughly 1 cent a gallon; bottled water costs up to $10 a gallon (WAY more expensive than gasoline!)
* Drinking the recommended daily amount of water using bottled water can cost up to $1,400 per year; drinking the same amount from the tap costs around 59 cents for the year, according to the New York Times.
* Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water in 2006.

Waste
* It takes THREE gallons of water to produce ONE drinkable gallon of bottled water.
* 86% of plastic bottles in the United States never get recycled.
* Bottled water has a huge carbon footprint both from the production of the bottles and from transporting them all over the country and world (water is very heavy).

Okay, now that your eyes are open (and you're thoroughly depressed), here's the good news -- drinking bottled water is a pretty easy habit to kick!

Kicking The Bottled Water Habit

These are the two most important steps to kicking the habit and "staying clean."
Water Filter
Step 1: Get a Good Filter

Although most tap water tastes okay, it's possible that you did something really bad in a past life and now you're paying for it in the form of sulfur water. But regardless of whether or not you're working off bad karma, if you're not happy with the quality of your tap water, the best solution is to invest in a good filter. Depending on what you're dealing with and how sensitive you are to taste, you can choose something as simple and cheap as a Brita filter or you can buy an undersink or whole house water filter.

I purchased a Kenmore under-sink model that was recommended by Consumer Reports about four years ago and have been very happy with it. It was reasonably priced, pretty easy to install (my husband put it in without any formal training in the plumbing arts), and gets rid of a lot of the bad stuff in our water while improving the taste.

If you're not sure where to start, click here for a great review of water filters (including coutertop, faucet-mounded, under-sink and whole house models) from the Green Guide - the data comes from Consumer Reports and the National Sanitation Foundation.

Step 2: Switch to a Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Kleen Kanteen - 18 oz size
Around the same time I got the under-sink filter, I also bought two stainless steel Kleen Kanteen bottles (one for me and one for the husband.) My decision to ditch our Nalgenes came after I read the
news stories about polycarbonate plastic bottles leaching bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen and may be linked to increased cancer risks, infertility, autism, and developmental problems. There is still debate over how serious the risk is but I figure there's no need to keep drinking from a plastic bottle while the scientists hash it out with the plastics industry lobbyists, right?

When I started looking for a metal alternative to our beloved Nalgene bottles four years ago, it was not easy to find. But after a bunch of internet searching, I eventually found one online retailer who sold a product called
Kleen Kanteen (at the time, an unknown brand.) But since then, the market for metal water bottles has exploded! I see the things pretty much EVERYWHERE I go though, granted, I do live in Berkeley...

Kleen Kanteens are solid, light-weight and virtually indestructible but, best of all, the stainless steel does NOT leach suspect chemicals into the water you're drinking, unlike your old Nalgene. They come in 12 oz, 18 oz, 27 oz, and 40 oz sizes with a variety of tops including a sippy cup like-one for green toddlers. The only downside I see to them is that they're made in China but, then again, so are many of the things we buy.

Although there are other brands of metal water bottles on the market now (the ones I see most often are made by a Swiss company called
Sigg), I believe they are either made of aluminum and/or lined with some sort of plastic both of which seem to defeat the purpose of a non-toxic water bottle. So the simple, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen gets my vote.

Once you to get yourself set up with the bottles and filters, it should be much easier to stop buying bottled water. However, as with any habit, it will take increased awareness of your daily habits and a degree of self-discipline to change your ways. But I know you can do it!

Helpful Links

* The Center for a New American Dream's Carbon Conscious Consumer Campaign blog:
http://c3.newdream.org/blog/cat/break-the-bottled-water-habit/
* How to Green Your Water Guide from TreeHugger:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/how_to_green_your_water.php
* The Green Guide's Review of Water Filters:
http://www.thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=23&sec=2
* The National Tap Water Database:
http://www.ewg.org/tapwater/findings.php

More Ways To Green Your Kitchen

6 comments:

Matt V. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ealasaid said...

Sigg lines their aluminum bottles with enamel, not plastic, FWIW. I just got a Sigg bottle myself as I'm cutting out sources of pseudoestrogen in my diet.

Monty thiessen said...

Water filters are an excellent invention that you can install onto your taps at a minimal cost that will save you a surprising amount in the weeks and months after they are installed. What they do, in a nutshell is filter out some of the trace minerals and other unwanted materials found in your water, including chlorine, limescale and fluoride and this leads to better tasting water that is incredibly inexpensive in the long run.

Karen J Gray said...

I used to be dead against bottled water and generally speaking I still am. But the more I learned about the effects of adding fluoride to tap water, the more it worried me. I have severe dental problems which flouride has most likely been exacerbating. I learned that most filtration systems cannot remove fluoride. My city water company has been adding flouride for decades, though most other municipal water companies in the greater area here do not. Should I ever manage to move to a place where they don't use it, I'd never buy another bottle of water.

The thing is, it's not the same kind of flouride that is found in some natural water sources. What they put in my water comes from industry, like aluminum smelting, and it was waste that used to cost the producers big bucks to dispose of safely. Now, they can sell it instead, to city water companies to deliberately add into drinking water.

No reliable, unbiased studies I've been able to find support the notion that fluoridation of water reduces dental cavities, which is why they started using it. The same flouride is in tooth paste, and even a pea size amount of that can be fatal to a young child if it is swallowed, because it is so toxic !

The only filter I know of that will remove flouride is Reverse Osmosis.. I won't pretend to be any sort of expert on this but I know RO systems waste a great deal of water. Research I did made mention of something called a permeate pump, which can reduce the waste to about 1 gallon wasted per 1 gallon finished filtered water. But in most systems, It's FOUR gallons of water down the drain for every gallon of RO filtered water you use. That's unacceptable to me.

The water here comes from Lake Ontario. Some summers, what comes from the tap smells truly terrible, thanks to periodic algal blooms in the lake. So sometimes the tap water stinks and tastes funny, though we are assured it is safe. You would not notice it in a hearty soup, but it will make green or white tea taste a bit swampy.

In the end, last year, I began a compromise. I cook with tap water. What I drink and make tea with now comes from bottles. I buy the largest possible containers to use less plastic and recycle every possible scrap. No, I'm not happy the water is bottled in plastic; there are concerns about how it is stored.

But I really want to avoid taking in any more fluoride than I must. I also try to ensure the water I use is used at least one more time whenever possible. Water used for rinsing and some washing is saved to water plants and even to flush the toilet.

This is far from a perfect world, sadly. Every choice made has consequences. I'm not happy about plastic, be it a container or textile. It really bothers me that water bottlers here have been permitted to pull billions of litres of water from local sources, while paying next to nothing for it, so their profits are even more obscene. I wish I knew of another way to dodge the flouride.

Bottlers should be paying as much as citizens do for the water they take. Lately the provincial government is taking steps in this area, but there is such a long way to go.

Eve Fox said...

Hi Karen,
thanks for this thoughtful comment. You're absolutely right that it's not a perfect world and that every choice has consequences. It sounds like you've found a very sensible path and that you've considered all the angles and are doing what is best for you and the environment. I do hope the provincial government does more to help improve water quality. I am fortunate to live in an area with clean water (the Hudson Valley reservoirs supply much of the drinking water for New York City, in fact) and also to not have to deal with fluoridation as we have a well (which can sometimes pose challenges but is mostly just a good thing.)

Best of luck to you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Greening Your Kitchen: Say 'Buh-Bye' to Bottled Water

Greening Your Kitchen logoI'm afraid that I have some bad news. Although drinking bottled water may seem like a harmless, even a healthy, thing to do, it's actually a really bad habit.

Those bottles of cold, crystal clear, fresh spring water may become considerably less appealing if you consider the following factoids (courtesy of the
Center for a New American Dream, Grist, and Treehugger.)

Purity
* 25%-40% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is actually just tap water (in a plastic bottle.)

* Tap water is actually more strictly regulated than bottled water. The EPA monitors all tap water while the FDA regulates only some bottled water.
* A four-year study of bottled water in the U.S. conducted by NRDC found that one-fifth of the 103 water products tested contained synthetic organic chemicals such as the neurotoxin xylene and the possible carcinogen and neurotoxin styrene.

Lots of bottled water by Brett Weinstein
Cost
* Tap water costs roughly 1 cent a gallon; bottled water costs up to $10 a gallon (WAY more expensive than gasoline!)
* Drinking the recommended daily amount of water using bottled water can cost up to $1,400 per year; drinking the same amount from the tap costs around 59 cents for the year, according to the New York Times.
* Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water in 2006.

Waste
* It takes THREE gallons of water to produce ONE drinkable gallon of bottled water.
* 86% of plastic bottles in the United States never get recycled.
* Bottled water has a huge carbon footprint both from the production of the bottles and from transporting them all over the country and world (water is very heavy).

Okay, now that your eyes are open (and you're thoroughly depressed), here's the good news -- drinking bottled water is a pretty easy habit to kick!

Kicking The Bottled Water Habit

These are the two most important steps to kicking the habit and "staying clean."
Water Filter
Step 1: Get a Good Filter

Although most tap water tastes okay, it's possible that you did something really bad in a past life and now you're paying for it in the form of sulfur water. But regardless of whether or not you're working off bad karma, if you're not happy with the quality of your tap water, the best solution is to invest in a good filter. Depending on what you're dealing with and how sensitive you are to taste, you can choose something as simple and cheap as a Brita filter or you can buy an undersink or whole house water filter.

I purchased a Kenmore under-sink model that was recommended by Consumer Reports about four years ago and have been very happy with it. It was reasonably priced, pretty easy to install (my husband put it in without any formal training in the plumbing arts), and gets rid of a lot of the bad stuff in our water while improving the taste.

If you're not sure where to start, click here for a great review of water filters (including coutertop, faucet-mounded, under-sink and whole house models) from the Green Guide - the data comes from Consumer Reports and the National Sanitation Foundation.

Step 2: Switch to a Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Kleen Kanteen - 18 oz size
Around the same time I got the under-sink filter, I also bought two stainless steel Kleen Kanteen bottles (one for me and one for the husband.) My decision to ditch our Nalgenes came after I read the
news stories about polycarbonate plastic bottles leaching bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen and may be linked to increased cancer risks, infertility, autism, and developmental problems. There is still debate over how serious the risk is but I figure there's no need to keep drinking from a plastic bottle while the scientists hash it out with the plastics industry lobbyists, right?

When I started looking for a metal alternative to our beloved Nalgene bottles four years ago, it was not easy to find. But after a bunch of internet searching, I eventually found one online retailer who sold a product called
Kleen Kanteen (at the time, an unknown brand.) But since then, the market for metal water bottles has exploded! I see the things pretty much EVERYWHERE I go though, granted, I do live in Berkeley...

Kleen Kanteens are solid, light-weight and virtually indestructible but, best of all, the stainless steel does NOT leach suspect chemicals into the water you're drinking, unlike your old Nalgene. They come in 12 oz, 18 oz, 27 oz, and 40 oz sizes with a variety of tops including a sippy cup like-one for green toddlers. The only downside I see to them is that they're made in China but, then again, so are many of the things we buy.

Although there are other brands of metal water bottles on the market now (the ones I see most often are made by a Swiss company called
Sigg), I believe they are either made of aluminum and/or lined with some sort of plastic both of which seem to defeat the purpose of a non-toxic water bottle. So the simple, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen gets my vote.

Once you to get yourself set up with the bottles and filters, it should be much easier to stop buying bottled water. However, as with any habit, it will take increased awareness of your daily habits and a degree of self-discipline to change your ways. But I know you can do it!

Helpful Links

* The Center for a New American Dream's Carbon Conscious Consumer Campaign blog:
http://c3.newdream.org/blog/cat/break-the-bottled-water-habit/
* How to Green Your Water Guide from TreeHugger:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/how_to_green_your_water.php
* The Green Guide's Review of Water Filters:
http://www.thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=23&sec=2
* The National Tap Water Database:
http://www.ewg.org/tapwater/findings.php

More Ways To Green Your Kitchen

6 comments:

Matt V. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ealasaid said...

Sigg lines their aluminum bottles with enamel, not plastic, FWIW. I just got a Sigg bottle myself as I'm cutting out sources of pseudoestrogen in my diet.

Monty thiessen said...

Water filters are an excellent invention that you can install onto your taps at a minimal cost that will save you a surprising amount in the weeks and months after they are installed. What they do, in a nutshell is filter out some of the trace minerals and other unwanted materials found in your water, including chlorine, limescale and fluoride and this leads to better tasting water that is incredibly inexpensive in the long run.

Karen J Gray said...

I used to be dead against bottled water and generally speaking I still am. But the more I learned about the effects of adding fluoride to tap water, the more it worried me. I have severe dental problems which flouride has most likely been exacerbating. I learned that most filtration systems cannot remove fluoride. My city water company has been adding flouride for decades, though most other municipal water companies in the greater area here do not. Should I ever manage to move to a place where they don't use it, I'd never buy another bottle of water.

The thing is, it's not the same kind of flouride that is found in some natural water sources. What they put in my water comes from industry, like aluminum smelting, and it was waste that used to cost the producers big bucks to dispose of safely. Now, they can sell it instead, to city water companies to deliberately add into drinking water.

No reliable, unbiased studies I've been able to find support the notion that fluoridation of water reduces dental cavities, which is why they started using it. The same flouride is in tooth paste, and even a pea size amount of that can be fatal to a young child if it is swallowed, because it is so toxic !

The only filter I know of that will remove flouride is Reverse Osmosis.. I won't pretend to be any sort of expert on this but I know RO systems waste a great deal of water. Research I did made mention of something called a permeate pump, which can reduce the waste to about 1 gallon wasted per 1 gallon finished filtered water. But in most systems, It's FOUR gallons of water down the drain for every gallon of RO filtered water you use. That's unacceptable to me.

The water here comes from Lake Ontario. Some summers, what comes from the tap smells truly terrible, thanks to periodic algal blooms in the lake. So sometimes the tap water stinks and tastes funny, though we are assured it is safe. You would not notice it in a hearty soup, but it will make green or white tea taste a bit swampy.

In the end, last year, I began a compromise. I cook with tap water. What I drink and make tea with now comes from bottles. I buy the largest possible containers to use less plastic and recycle every possible scrap. No, I'm not happy the water is bottled in plastic; there are concerns about how it is stored.

But I really want to avoid taking in any more fluoride than I must. I also try to ensure the water I use is used at least one more time whenever possible. Water used for rinsing and some washing is saved to water plants and even to flush the toilet.

This is far from a perfect world, sadly. Every choice made has consequences. I'm not happy about plastic, be it a container or textile. It really bothers me that water bottlers here have been permitted to pull billions of litres of water from local sources, while paying next to nothing for it, so their profits are even more obscene. I wish I knew of another way to dodge the flouride.

Bottlers should be paying as much as citizens do for the water they take. Lately the provincial government is taking steps in this area, but there is such a long way to go.

Eve Fox said...

Hi Karen,
thanks for this thoughtful comment. You're absolutely right that it's not a perfect world and that every choice has consequences. It sounds like you've found a very sensible path and that you've considered all the angles and are doing what is best for you and the environment. I do hope the provincial government does more to help improve water quality. I am fortunate to live in an area with clean water (the Hudson Valley reservoirs supply much of the drinking water for New York City, in fact) and also to not have to deal with fluoridation as we have a well (which can sometimes pose challenges but is mostly just a good thing.)

Best of luck to you.