Bottled Water Alternatives

Bottled water uses resources and impacts the environment during production, transportation, storage, refrigeration, disposal, and even recycling. We need to think about our personal choices for drinking water and then take action.

Reusable Water Bottle

Author's Reusable Water BottleSeveral years ago when I started thinking about the environment and things I could stop doing, buying bottled water at all seemed to be a good one (I didn’t buy much to start with). I went on a search for a reusable water bottle. I wanted one that would fit in my purse and had a removable top that was attached somehow. It took a few tries but I finally found one that met my criteria and it was purple, my favorite color. Now I take it everywhere.

Alternatives to Bottled Water

There are many different types of devices and systems for filtering and storing tap water, in a wide variety of price ranges, that will fulfill different lifestyles and personal preferences.  A few are listed below:

Water Faucet (the anti-filter)
  • Glass Being Filled with Tap WaterThe easiest and most cost-effective solution is to just fill a reusable glass or bottle directly from the faucet (don’t blow it by using a throwaway paper or plastic cup).
Filtering Pitchers / Dispensers

Brita Pacific Water Filtration Pitcher

  • Pour tap water into the top, the water is filtered as it moves through into the body of the pitcher or dispenser.
  • Fill reusable water bottles before leaving the house or office.
Reusable Bottle Water Filtering unit
  • Filtrete Water StationSimilar to a filtering pitcher, tap water is poured in the top, filtered, and fills several reusable water bottles at the same time.
  • Easy to grab and go.
Point of Use Water Filtering
  • Whirlpool Reverse Osmosis Water SystemFaucet Water Filter: a device attached to a water tap that provides filtered water from the faucet.
  • Reverse Osmosis System: equipment is installed under the sink and filtered water is accessed via an additional spigot next to the kitchen faucet.
Refrigerator
  • Whirlpool Refrigerator with In Door Water DispenserWant your water cold, then put your filtering pitcher or dispenser in the refrigerator, or store filtered water in reusable containers or bottles. Refrigerators with small access doors on the outside use less energy because you do not need to open the whole door to take out the items stored in the door (like a pitcher of water).
  • Many refrigerator manufacturers offer filtered water and ice via external door dispensers. 
  • If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator consider the above options.
Emergency Storage

What about storing water in bulk for emergency purposes? Pallets of water bottles or large jugs may seem to be just the thing, but there are alternatives.

  • 5-Gallon Reconditioned KegFor instance, a soda/beer keg makes a great water storage container. The 5-gallon size is easy to handle and store.
  • These kegs were originally made by the IMI Cornelius Company for dispensing soft drinks under pressure. Nowadays soda is mixed and dispensed at the machine, but the kegs are popular with home beer brewers.
  • Since they were designed to hold liquids under pressure they are very strong and durable. Kegs can be purchased new or used on the Internet.

Think About It and then Take Action

We have a reverse osmosis water filtering system, a refrigerator with a door water dispenser, and a collection of drinking glasses and reusable water bottles. I have to admit that I have purchased a bottle of water on rare occasions, but I really, really, really try to avoid it. 

I realize that my choices won’t work for everyone but everyone can take a positive step towards reducing bottled water use and waste. This is something we can all do for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.

Author’s Soap Box (opinion)

Author's Soap BoxWater is essential to life and is a precious natural resource. There seems to be something wrong with bottling it for some people who can afford to pay for it. Using our planet’s limited resources for bottled water and damaging the environment in the process doesn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t we focus our efforts, resources, and money on ensuring everyone has access to a consistent and safe water supply?

Just say NO to bottled water!

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What is the Environmental Impact of Bottled Water?

What is the environmental impact of bottled water? It can be challenging to measure, but there is no doubt there is an impact. It is not just the government and environmental groups talking about the environmental impact of bottled water, even the bottled water industry talks about it.

Energy

Power PlantEnergy is used during all phases of bottled water production, from making the plastic bottle to transporting it to keeping it cool.

Most of the energy used comes from burning fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, coal) which release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and is a major cause of global warming.

Plastic bottle manufacturing and transporting bottled water account for 96%+ of energy used in bottled water, with transportation being a large variable.

Depending on transportation method and miles traveled, producing and transporting a single 16.9 ounce (1/2 liter) bottle consumes enough energy to run a 100-watt light bulb for 7 to 14 hours. Multiply that by the billions of bottles of water consumed by just Americans in a year and that is a huge amount of energy.

Plastic Water Bottle Manufacturing
  • Plastic is made from petroleum a non-renewable fossil fuel. Most single-use water bottles are plastic and made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Larger bottles may be made from polycarbonate, which requires about 40% more energy.
  • Water bottles are shipped from the manufacturing plant and then cleaned before bottling.
  • Bottle manufacturing represents between 39 – 71% of the energy used in bottled water (varies depending on transportation).
Bottled Water Processing and Bottling
  • Water is usually treated prior to bottling which may include filtering, ultraviolet radiation, and reverse osmosis.
  • Bottles are filled, sealed, labeled, and packaged for shipping.
Transporting Bottle Water
  • A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds which is a lot of weight to move around when you’re talking billions of gallons.
  • The energy required to transport bottled water from the bottling plant to the store varies widely and represents 25 – 56 % of the energy used in bottled water.
  • Major metropolitan areas are more likely to have a local bottling plant. Bottled water may travel across the country or even across the ocean.
Cooling Bottled Water
  • Bottled water is typically transported at room temperature.
  • Initially, energy is needed to cool bottled water and then to keep it cool in the store cooler, and later in one’s home or office refrigerator.

Water

Obviously, bottled water uses an enormous amount of water. Bottled water is primarily sourced from municipal (tap water) and surface and ground water systems. Most of it ends up in the bottle but some manufacturing processes use additional water.

Waste and Recycling

I don’t know the amount of waste produced during the manufacturing of plastic bottles and the bottled water process, but you can be sure there is some.

A plastic water bottle will become waste if not recycled. Plastic water bottles are a subset of plastic bottles in general. The two sources cited below show government and plastic bottle industry figures about plastic bottle recycling.

  • Plastic Bottle LitterA report issued by the U.S. EPA (link below) sheds some light on the subject of waste. Plastic water bottles fall into the PET Bottles and Jars category just one category of plastics. In 2010, 2,670 thousands of tons of PET Bottles and Jars were generated of which 780 thousands of tons or 29.2% were recycled and 1,890 thousands of pounds or 70.85% were discarded and ended up in landfills or remained where they were tossed in nature.
  • According to the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) report 2010 Report on Post-Consumer PET Container Recycling Activity,  “The recycling rate for plastic bottles rose 1 percent to reach nearly 29 percent in 2010″.

We can certainly do better than a 29% recycling rate for something that can be conveniently and easily recycled by consumers via curbside collection, municipal recycling containers, and recycling centers.

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