Feb 26, 2013

Drink Up

Reusable bottles can be cheap. Really.
One of the more gazelle-y changes we have made is to stop purchasing drinks. Oh, we still buy adult beverages, of course. I am from Wisconsin after all. During the fall, we will usually treat ourselves to a few quarts of apple cider. We still drink coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. And when someone has a cold, we get juice as part of their treatment. But for regular daily hydration, we drink tap water. It is the cheapest drink you can find, and the best for you too.

At the home we own in Minnesota, I had the brilliant idea to get a reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water system. The installer showed us how many parts per million of particulates we had in our regular city-provided tap water, and how few there were in the RO-treated water. We were sold, despite the fact that we didn't really know what those particulates were or if they were harmful in any way. The system was pricey and required yearly replacement of pricey filters, but we figured it was worth it for our health.

Funny thing about salespeople: they don't always explain all of the negatives. It turns out that an RO system actually wastes water. A lot of it. As a matter of fact, every time you use the spigot to pour yourself a tall, clean glass of filtered water, the system spits a whole bunch out into your basement sink (or whatever drain the installers fed the drain tube into). This discovery was contrary to both my green and my gazelle sensibilities. But we had already paid for it and had it installed, so we continued to use it right up until we moved. And we knew that, unless a water test showed we actually had bad bacteria in our water (which is highly unlikely if you have city water since I believe they test those water sources annually) we would not buy an RO system again. If we need to filter chlorine out of our drinking water, we'd purchase an on-faucet charcoal type filter instead.

So while we are no longer drinking filtered water, we are still tap water fans. There is a fantastic documentary that is streaming free on Netflix right now called Tapped. I saw this film at a free local college screening a couple of years ago, and wow. You'll never look at bottled water the same innocuous way again.

So how to avoid it? Every meeting, every conference - everywhere - bottled water is provided for you as a courtesy. It's easy, it is often free, and doggone it, we are thirsty. Even though it meets the gazelle criteria when it is free, it sure isn't green. The water comes from somewhere, and when you see Tapped you'll begin to wonder just whose water it was. Then, it sits in a plastic bottle, and while there is conflicting information out there about whether or not plastic bottles leach chemicals into your refreshing beverage (here's just one article on the subject from NPR), I'd rather play it safe. We won't even talk about the manufacturing of the plastic bottle itself, or what happens to it when it is empty - you can find plenty of information on the environmental harm of those elsewhere (check out this slideshow showing some good and bad places you can find old plastic bottles). And even if it is free to us, someone bought it, which means the market continues to demand its production.

We green gazelles have gotten in the habit of bringing tap water with us every time we leave the house. This ensures that even when we are somewhere with no water fountain to be found, we won't have to buy a bottle of water or some sugary beverage to quench our thirst. B uses a stainless steel water bottle. These are pricey, but not too bad, and they are especially useful for people who tend to drop things.

I don't. I have used a 32 oz mason jar for many years - and haven't broken one yet. This is a really inexpensive way to go and cheap to replace if you accidentally leave it somewhere. In the photo above, you'll see that I use a plastic lid for my mason jar. This is because the metal lids tend to get rusty after awhile, which I wasn't a fan of. The plastic lids are usually available where you can buy canning supplies, but note that they are not safe for canning. I also don't know about the leachability of these lids, so if that worries you be sure to do your own research. The hubby even splurged and got me a US and handmade Mug Monster, which protects the bottle, makes it easy to carry, and is terribly cute. The only downside to the mason jar water bottle (besides your coworkers relentless "moonshine" jokes - you know who you are!) is that the lids never totally seal. This means that you have to keep them upright and under-filled so they don't drip/leak, and also preferably within a plastic bag if you've got it in your work/school satchel.

My newest love (the other bottle in the picture) is a glass mineral water bottle. For the low gazelle-y price of about $2, you can pick up some tasty mineral water (what a treat!) and reuse the glass bottle it comes in for a long, long time. The lids of these bottles don't seem to leak at all, even when my bottle is lying on its side. To help keep the bottle in my hand, I've placed a heavy duty rubberband (the kind that keeps your fresh broccoli together) around it. This gives it some grip.

So there you have it. Not only are you sure to not have to buy or accept a plastic bottle when you get thirsty, but you'll likely up your water intake because it's right there with you. Win-win.

If you are still forgetting your bottle when you leave the house, this five minute video from The Story of Stuff Project called The Story of Bottled Water might give you a new perspective on the scam you are being sold and make carrying your own bottle of tap water much more appealing.

What is your preferred reusable water bottle? What helped you kick the bottled water habit? What has held you up from making the change?


  1. What type of lame coworker would make almost daily jokes about moonshine every time they passed your desk?

  2. Nice post Joey. I'm with you on tap water - safer in most cases than what you can buy in a bottle because it is monitored very closely.

    My favorites over the years have been the mason jar (sitting next to me as I type), a Knutsen Juice bottle, and my trusty aluminum bottle which is full of dents.

    You will be happy to know that last week was the statewide (WI) annual solid waste and recycling conference at which we do not allow them to put out bottled water for the speakers. We make sure there are glasses and pitchers of water at all the tables. Down with bottled water :)

  3. Emily, only the best type!

    Angie, thanks for the comment. I love that the conference was bottled water free! Is there some sort of handbook that those planning conferences can download giving them tips on how to plan for a waste free event and eliminate bottled water?

  4. I'm with you on the mason jars - that's what I use at home and on the go. We are lucky to have our own well with the tastiest water ever! I do drink a lot of decaf green and mint iced tea, with no sugar, because I love it, and, it's good for you. Also, very inexpensive! I love your blog Joey!

  5. Those darn co-op people changed my mind about bottled water, among other things. :-) I also use a mason jar for water...and coffee. I make a pot of coffee, pour it into small mason jars and in the fridge it goes. Iced coffee when ever I want. And the best part, I can get my hand in there to really get the jars cleaned.
    We drink tap water, which I hope is a wise choice. Some parts of Phoenix, the water is suppose to case cancer. But here, on some days, you could say the same about breathing the air. :/

  6. Oh my, Debbie and Anonymous - you made me realize that my post might be misleading. We do indeed still drink coffee (plenty of it!) and tea, and hot cocoa too. I don't think of these as thirst quenchers though, the way I do soda, juice, or bottled water. Thanks for reading!

  7. For those of you that use mason jars... do you have the same issue with leaking as I do? Have you found any solutions?