We’ve all reached for a bottle of water when on a road trip, out of the office for the day, or looking for a quick, refreshing beverage after a long hike, and it shows. Demand for bottled water is at an all-time high and expected to keep growing, with Americans alone going through 15.7 billion gallons (59 billion liters) of the stuff annually.
We love the convenience of small water packages we can use and throw away. Not surprisingly, this one-use water bottle habit is harmful to our planet and making us poorer to boot.
- Bottled water is 3,500 times more harmful to the environment than tap water.
- Companies such as Nestlé make fortunes off bottling up water that they paid nearly nothing for.
- Water bottling plants waste large quantities of energy in producing and transporting bottled water.
To avoid all that, choose to reuse and get an eco-friendly water bottle that is reusable, recyclable, and made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, keep an eye out for third-party certifications such as B Corp or 1% for the Planet.
Here are a few sustainable water bottle brands worth considering:
- Klean Kanteen: A Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet member, Klean Kanteen (shop at Klean Kanteen, EarthHero.com or Amazon.com) has been producing BPA-free, reusable stainless steel water bottles since 2004.
- Ecovessel: A member of 1% for the Planet and pledging 5% of sales to non-profits, Ecovessel (shop at Ecovessel or Amazon.com) produces stainless steel water bottles in a few different styles, all of which are non-toxic.
- Hydro Flask: A company that has donated $2.5 million to supporting parks, Hydro Flask (shop at Hydro Flask, EarthHero.com, or Amazon.com) is another eco-friendly producer of sustainable stainless steel water bottles.
Most sustainable materials for water bottles
Stainless steel is a highly durable, convenient option for water bottles. They can be used for hot liquids, are most often dishwasher safe, won’t shatter if dropped (though they can dent), are lightweight, and come in a variety of fun shapes, sizes, and colors for every member of your family. These are also 100% recyclable!
Another chemically stable material that won’t leach chemicals into your beverages, glass is a safe bet and great for use at the office or around the house. Glass water bottles can be somewhat heavy and prone to breakage, so aren’t as convenient for use on-the-go. That said, if you add a foam style carrier to your glass water bottle, you can avoid breakage and make carrying easier.
Aluminum is a very lightweight material used to make many types of water bottles. It is durable and shatter-resistant, although can’t always be washed in the dishwasher. While recyclable, aluminum water bottles should not top your priority list as aluminum production produces noteworthy carbon emissions and you would have to reuse your aluminum water bottle around 50 times to make it as eco-friendly as your typical PET plastic bottle.
If plastic works best for you, make sure you choose a recyclable plastic and be sure to stay away from plastic #3 (polyvinyl chloride or PVC), plastic #6 (polystyrene or PS), and plastic #7 (polycarbonate) as these are known to leach chemicals. Plastic #5 (polypropylene or PP) is perhaps the best choice, though plastic #2 (high-density polyethylene plastic or HDPE) and plastic #4 (low-density polyethylene plastic or LDPE) are also okay. PET (plastic #1) is what the typical one-use water bottle is made from.
Environmental impacts of plastic water bottles
Sure, grabbing a cold bottle of water from the grocer’s cooler is quick and convenient, but at what cost? Take a look at plastic bottles by the numbers and you’ll soon discover just how big a waste plastic water bottles can be!
- Financial waste: Single-use bottles of water cost up to 10,000 times more than tap water! Going with tap water and a reusable water bottle can save you hundreds of dollars every year. Want to know how much you’re wasting every year? Check out this Bottled Water Cost Calculator to find out for yourself.
- Oil waste: PET bottles, the most commonly used for bottled water, are made of plastic produced using fossil fuels, which keeps us dependent on foreign oil. Americans use more than 17 million barrels of oil every year to support their bottled water habits.
- Energy waste: transporting water through a municipal system is energy-efficient, even over long distances. But carting heavy bottled water using inefficient vehicles (trains, trucks, boats) adds unnecessary fossil fuel burning to the mix and contributes to climate change.
- Solid waste: Americans throw away 35 billion one-use plastic water bottles every year, 78% of which are not recycled. Plastic bottles made from PET take up to 450 years to decompose when sent to the landfill.
- Water waste and toxic emissions: While filling a plastic bottle with water makes sense, using enormous quantities of water to make the bottle in the first place doesn’t. Additionally, creating PET plastic is less toxic than other types of plastic bottles, but it is far from eco-friendly. Compared to manufacturing glass, PET production results in 100 times more of the following toxic emissions: nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide, and benzene.
Additional factors to consider
But, the material is not the end of the water bottle story. When shopping for sustainable water, safe bottles for you and your family, also look for these additional characteristics:
- BPA-free: Bisphenol-A (BPA) can sometimes get released (leached) into water stored in plastic and aluminum water bottles. That’s a problem because BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is causing many human health problems (including hormone disruption, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, etc.) for adults and children alike and should be avoided. Make sure your bottle is BPA-free.
- Antimony-free: PET water bottles are sometimes made with antimony which is a contaminant responsible for both acute and chronic health problems. Studies have shown that antimony can leach into the beverage contained in a PET bottle, which is especially true when the bottle’s temperature increases to higher levels.
- Bottle volume: Do you need enough water to last you the whole day or for just a short walk? Think about your needs and a bottle sized to suit your water requirements. If you want to be eco-friendly, don’t buy multiple bottles and choose one versatile size.
- Mouth style: This is completely subjective depending on your preference. If you want to avoid spills, look for one with a push-pull or bite valve, otherwise, go for one with a simple twist-off cap with either a narrow or wide mouth.
- Insulator: Need to keep your water cool throughout the day? Look for a reusable water bottle insulation sleeve that will help regulate the temp of your beverage. However, make sure it’s BPA-free and non-toxic.
- Tap vs. bottled water: The truth is that some of the bottled water comes right out of the tap, making it no safer than using your own tap water from home or the office. If you’re concerned, have your tap water tested and get yourself a filtration system, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re certainly healthier by drinking bottled water.