DIY portable chilled water

  1. Brita On Tap Filtration System, $30
  2. Rubbermaid 2.25qt covered pitcher, $3.41
  3. Nalgene 16oz HDPE Narrow-Mouth bottle, $5
Brita Filter, Rubbermaid pitcher, Nalgene bottle

Total initial investment: $38.41. Yearly filter cost: ~$60. Drinking guilt-free bottled water: priceless.

So recently I read on Boing Boing:

There have been lots of stories lately about the inefficiency and environmental damages caused by bottled water…You’ll never want to drink Fiji again.

In the post was an excerpt from an article in Fast Company by Charles Fishman entitled Message in a Bottle (which Anton also mused on today in Water, water). This part caught my eye:

In fact, since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles’ journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation—which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it.

Ouch. I could just see Fiji’s sales tanking thanks to Boing Boing’s amplification effect. I too felt my internal value system adjust to avoid bottled water more consciously in the future, though in actuality I purchase very little of it.

As it happens, I was at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and Stephanie picked up a bottle of Australian olive oil. I thought to myself, “Now wait, how is that any different? What about wine? What about anything that ends up in any grocery store?” Someone had to bring it there. Some amount of fossil fuels were burned in that process, whether via container ship, airplane, or truck. Why single out water?

Trader Joe’s sells a lot of water, but I instantly thought of the uber-environmentally and socially conscious Whole Foods. What about the gallons of water they sell? How do they justify it? Luckily I didn’t have to wait for an answer. Charles Fishman interviewed their CEO, John Mackey, in his article. Turns out his thoughts mirrored my own:

“It’s unfair to say bottled water is causing extra plastic in landfills, and it’s using energy transporting it,” he says. “There’s a substitution effect—it’s substituting for juices and Coke and Pepsi.” As for the energy used to transport water from overseas, Mackey says it is no more or less wasteful than the energy used to bring merlot from France or coffee from Ethiopia, raspberries from Chile or iPods from China. “Have we now decided that the use of any fossil fuel is somehow unethical?” Mackey asks. “I don’t think water should be picked on. Why is the iPod okay and the water is not?”

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7 Comments

Katie

See, in the UK this has become a national obsession with food miles. People buying british rather than dutch strawberries, and boycotting african cut flowers etc. Abel and cole, the box scheme that I use, ships everything they get from overseas, which is pretty much only bananas, which they get from the dominican republic. Even the soil association are mulling over whether, to get organic certification, food ought to be produced, it should have a minimum number of food miles. Never mind that both organic food and counting food miles damages developing economies for now, there’s nothing more sustainable about growing things at home for us.

The fact is, with our climate, it uses far, far more carbon emissions to grow, say, peppers in a poly tunnel with artificial heating than it is to grow them abroad, even as far as, say Chile, and ship them over. The situation is analogous to that Prius to Hummer lifetime comparison: if you think about it holistically, over time the Hummer is more environmentally friendly and cheaper. Of course, a smalljapanese hatckback is even more so. So, food miles are basically counting the wrong thing.

Good thing Calistoga is right around the corner.

Well, water is different in that I can cheaply and conveniently get it from my tap and then filter, bottle and chill it at my own home with conventional home appliances and things I can buy at target. Though i can conceivably make my own olive oil or merlot, it is not practical. I also don’t know how to make an iPod.

Kristina

Like Marcia said. Plus, you’re already paying for the water that comes out of your tap. It’s not like you’re paying for some olive oil to magically come out of a faucet in your home, deciding it’s not good enough, and going out to by exponentially more expensive olive oil.

Kristina

Also, if you like the cold water (I’m a room temp water drinker, myself), there are narrow ice cube trays: http://ohgizmo.com/?p=403

I’ve seen them at Ichiban Kan in the Bay Area for really cheap.

The thing is, though, water is free and coke and wine (and other goods) are not. So water is different in that you can get it other ways for free or cheap. Buying it in the bottle is pure indulgent convenience, while you could argue the packaging for other goods is necessary since you can’t get them from other sources for free.

There’s also the issue of what plastic water bottles are doing in under-developed countries. For example: Peru has a terrible water system, so all the tourists buy bottled water to keep from getting sick. Those bottles are the biggest polluters and trash problem in the country. They all end up on the beaches, and then in the ocean. Meanwhile, nothing about the country’s water system gets fixed. Big problem!

I’ve recently started re-using water bottles because of these issues.

Dean

Plastic bottle pollution is just horrendous, everywhere I run, all I see is discarded plastic water bottles. I no longer buy bottled water as a personal stand against this trashing of our environment, I use a Hydropal instead, which allows me to drink filtered tap water wherever I am, I got my hydropal from http://www.hydropal.com.au, regards

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