Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Water Bottles; Eco and Ethics

Ugh, drinking water has been SO difficult! I gotta say that unlike some fantastical water-drinkers out there, I have to almost have a water-drinking schedule in order to get that stuff into my system.
But I do it, as water is essential. 98.73% of the molecules in our bodies are made of water. In order to survive human beings need water, it is the basis for life itself. 

As yogi/ni's and individuals who are mostly physically active (ok, so really yoga is IT for me!) we drink a LOT of water and increasingly water is becoming a commodity to buy and sell in our global community. In 2005 in Canada bottled water consumption was an estimated 60 litres per person with sales worth 652.7 million! That's a LOT of plastic. The US is the top consumer at 33.4 BILLION litres a year- in Toronto alone an estimated 100 million bottles are thrown out a year with only 65% being captured by recycling programs (cbc). From my previous post here we know that plastic lasts a loooong time. This plastic can leach harmful chemicals and additives into the water that you drink while working out or practicing yoga to be healthy (hmmm). 

So that's the environmental perspective, but what about the human essential right to water? Commodities are consumer driven, meaning the more people who buy their product the more profit and the more they'll want to sell. Selling water for a profit is now a money making industry. Why do we buy bottled water? Municipal water in developed countries is stringently tested for quality, sometimes daily in Canada. Many bottled water companies simply "harvest" water from a municipal source and dump it into a bottle, slap on a label and charge us a zillion dollars.

What would happen if water truly became something a company could buy ownership and rights? Like in Bolivia- where the government gave water rights of any source of water to a private company who jacked up water to unaffordable prices. Rumours abound regarding BC considering selling water rights to certain rivers to Californian private companies. For me, buying bottled water is much much more than an environmental issue, but an ethical human rights issue; we all have the right to clean, accessible water for free.

So, how do we transport water? What are our options? Here's a lowdown on water containers available and their "eco"-level.

1. Reusable Plastic: hmmm. Well- this one should be an easy one. Although reusable they are still plastic and will eventually end up in the landfill (as most are not recyclable in local community recycling facilities). Also, these plastic bottles can scratch and leach nasty chemicals into your water. Really a miniscule step up from plastic bottles.

2. SIGG Aluminum Bottles: These have been THE bottles around here lately. They look cool, they are pricey and easily identifiable (see the instant "trend" factor?). They don't leach plastic and are BPA free (a scary chemical that leaks from plastic bottles). Aluminum is easily recyclable and lightweight so great for working out (not that I would know since I hate the gym! lol). The downside: aluminum can be toxic so SIGG and other aluminum water containers need an extra lining to protect the water and it's watery drinker. Although their liner is supposedly water-based and non-toxic, it is sprayed on and baked at EXTREME temperatures... um not very eco of them.
I also don't understand how they are 100% recyclable when they have a liner that is BAKED on (which the composition is a "trade" secret that they do not disclose).
SIGG does donate 1% for the planet which is nice and the bottles are extremely sturdy. 

3. Stainless Steel: the Klean Kanteen. This is a family owned company out of the USA who uses medical grade stainless steel (so it doesn't leach chemicals) with NO liner. The bottle is recyclable and they also donate 1% for the planet AND they are NSF certified- a non-governmental organization that monitors production standards, health and safety of workers and constantly reviews guidelines. Their water containers are made in China with fair wages and safe labour regulations (no children workers in sweat shops!). Also BPA-free WOOT. This one is my favourite :)

I will end with "Ethos" water that is being sold at Starbucks (ok- I admit to loving Mochas... they are SO YUMMY). Have you seen their glass water bottles? Touting clean water to children around the world... by selling water as a commodity? Starbucks has this special little tap for their utensils that is running ALL THE TIME. 23.4 million litres of water a DAY wasted. I would say the first step is to stop treating water as a commodity and start considering it an essential human right. Just my little soap box.


  1. this is fantastic. thank you for posting! i was just googling "mineral deposits" or "corrosion" on my aluminum water bottle as i bought one from Lululemon (Om Water bottle) that is like Sigg - sprayed on lining. however, after 3 months of use, i happened to look inside and there were little and large circles of white deposits everywhere!!! i use this bottle EVERY day and often have my water sitting in it the entire day and just refilling it and then washing it out on the last day.

    i can only assume i was getting huge toxins from the aluminum as the lining seemed to have worn off. what do you think?

  2. I grabbed a friends beat up old Sigg and shined a light inside to see what it looked like in there (her bottle was pretty old, 5+ years she thought). What I saw was not pretty, I think the dents on the outside had created little failures of the liner inside, you could see it flaked in places. So basically at that point it has to be recycled, because it was exposing aluminum to whatever is inside (we smashed it flat like a can). I gave her an extra Klean Kanteen (I prefer the non-painted original version) so she should be good to go for at least a couple of decades!

  3. Hi Stephanie! I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) I also googled Lulu- and couldn't seem to find any info on what they use in their lining- big surprise since Lululemon is such a huge corporation filled with greenwashing... ahem. lol, anyhoo- BUT I did check out the hyperlink to Mysigg.com and they have a section re: mineral deposits and here's what they say:

    There Are Spots In My SIGG and I Only Use It For Water! These are called mineral deposits. To remove them, fill your clean dry SIGG bottle with Distilled White Vinegar and let soak for 24 hours, then rinse with warm water and 1 TBSP of Baking Soda, then let air dry. Repeat for stubborn mineral deposits.

    personally I think it's a load of poop, and these deposits are SKETCHY. But it looks like the aluminum wasn't exposed- so you are good to go. You might want to consider a stainless steel though, especially with Ethan's point- (ps- your paintings are BEAUTIFUL!!! I love love LOVE the nature "yes" tress :) )

    Thanks for the info Ethan :) It makes sense that aluminum is more susceptible to dents- which would chip the inner lining. I still don't get how they can extract the aluminum from the baked on lining to recycle though...

  4. What a nice writeup of so many water issues.

    I'm a retailer that sells Klean Kanteen and other stainless steel bottles. We are super excited about EarthLust bottles which will be here any day now. They are 100% surgical grade stainless steel but covered (eco friendly paint) outside with beautiful nature inspired designs. We will have them available for sale at http://www.bayinghound.com/earthlust.html as soon as they are in house.

  5. yeah, earthlust is way sexy...

  6. The mineral deposits could easily have come from the water that is put into the bottle...if you don't filter your water, it's likely that it has loads of chemicals in it...yum, right?

    We had this problem with our dishwasher in California...the dishes always came out with a milky residue that my dad also recommended vinegar to get rid of. *Sigh* Can't really filter the dishwashing water!

  7. So I know this was old, but sheesh. I just had to comment.

    That white buildup in water bottles? No, it's not some crazy chemical that some evil corporation has been secretly putting in your water. It's CALCIUM. Water is only 100% pure when it's distilled in a laboratory through extensive processes. Otherwise, it always has traces of many different minerals and other substances in it that are naturally occurring, especially in groundwater, which is likely where yours came from. Calcium and other mineral content is what makes water "hard" or "soft" - water softeners only serve to remove a portion of these minerals, many of which are actually good for you. Take a look at your showerhead or the underside of your faucet - chances are there are calcium deposits there, too. The calcium builds up on metals through chemical reactions, and by using vinegar, an alkaline substance, you can weaken those bonds and clean the water bottle out.

    See, just because chemistry is involved doesn't make it "sketchy." SIGG isn't "full of poop" - they know what they're talking about. And if you really are concerned about their liners being sprayed on at "extreme temperatures," I would invite you to investigate the process of mining, smelting, refining, and casting aluminum (or any metal, for that matter). Not only are there some pretty high temperatures used there, but a large number of actually toxic heavy metals must be removed. Do you really think they always get 100% of them out?

    Such a skepticism of manufactured goods, if truly and completely adopted, would result in one never buying anything. Some things simply have to be manufactured through a process that isn't necessarily as "green" as you would like, and you either have to accept that and buy them anyway or discontinue living within modern civilization.

    I don't have an account, but I can be reached at shanehughes314 -at- gmail.com

  8. EDIT: Vinegar is acidic, not alkaline. Don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that!

  9. Hi Anonymous (Shane :) ): thank you for the clarification. You're right, it could have been simply calcium deposits, although it was off putting.

    I will say this about manufacturing, consumerism and expectations: As a consumer, I really do not appreciate being manipulated or mislead. I want the information- and if a company claims that they are environmentally friendly, AND I'm going to invest my money into their company, supporting their business, product and manufacturing practices, I want to make an informed decision.

    I don't think it means as consumers we have to simply accept the status quo as "oh fine, this is good enough" when it clearly can still be improved upon. I truly feel that unless we are informed and pressure companies (by either purchasing alternatives or voicing our concerns) they won't strive to produce cleaner, greener products.

    As a result, I did not buy an aluminum water bottle. I purchased both water bottles (for myself and my husband) as well as my coffee thermos from Klean Kanteen. I feel like it was the right choice from the information I was able to gather.

    It actually wasn't the chemistry per se that annoyed me, but the fact that consumers are left to dig and research on their own, the companies themselves taking steps to hide their manufacturing and product information behind complicated chemistry, science speak. Not everyone has a university education (hence the tone of this post, I try to make my posts as accessible as possible).

    You're right though- chemistry isn't all that scary :)


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