Aside from staying home and drinking tap water out of a glass or a glass bottle, the best way to be "green" while on the go is choosing your water bottle wisely. From the lowly single-use-only plastic water bottle you can buy at your local gas station to the stainless steel and aluminum options, making the right choice is important in maintaining both your health and the health of the environment.
Maybe the worst choice is the water bottle - the kind that you only use once – the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle that you find in grocery stores, gas stations, etc, that is used for water, soda and juice. This kind of plastic has been proven to leach DEHP (Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) after repeated use and is a probable carcinogen. They can also harbor bacterial growth inside any cracks and crevices inside the bottle, which cannot be too good for your health either!
Next to the regular old plastic bottles we see everywhere, probably the most common would be your typical bottle as seen here. These plastic bottles, commonly used by exercise buffs and campers, are made out of thermoplastic polymers that usually goes by the name polycarbonate. However, it’s not just water bottles that are made out of polycarbonate; CD’s, iPods, sunglasses, and computer shells are also made of the material. Thankfully though, we don’t normally chew on CD’s or computers because polycarbonates have been proven to leach BPA, a synthetic hormone that can mimic estrogen and cause prostate cancer. Even scarier is the fact that most baby bottles are made out of polycarbonate, and when you heat up milk in them to feed your baby, the BPA could be leaching in at an even higher rate than normal. Not good at all.
A better option...
Aluminum Water Bottle.
The best way to get your daily dose of water on the go, maybe a stainless steel reusable container. Stainless steel does not leach, is difficult to break or crack, and does not easily stain or interact with whatever product you are consuming. The water always tastes good out of it and it keeps it reasonably cold for a little while when we go hiking or out in the sun. They don’t recommend using them for hot beverages, which is understandable – that’s what a thermos is for.
Ideally, the best way to drink water on the go would be an aluminum or stainless steel water bottle, as they seem to exhibit the least amount of health concerns out of all the choices. Add in the fact that they can be used over and over again with no degradation and do not need to be recycled each time you use one, they really are the “blue and green” choice. And since upwards of 40% of bottled water is actually just tap water in disguise, buying it seems like not only a health risk due to the plastic leaching possibilities, but also a cost issue.
You should choose a water bottle that is constructed without the use of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that had raised health safety questions. BPA-free water bottle options:
Copolyester (Common Brand Name: Tritan® )
Essentially, this material is the "new polycarbonate." Like polycarbonate (discussed below), it is light, tough, translucent and very durable—just not as invincibly shatterproof. Unlike polycarbonate, it does not contain bisphenol A (BPA). Well suited for challenging outdoor conditions.
Temperature range: -211°F to 275°F (-135°C to 135°C).
To identify: Bottle may be clear, colored, frosted or feature artwork. Rigid construction.
Recycling number: None or No. 7.
Pros: Low weight; durable; retains few, if any, odors if used to transport flavored liquids; easy to view contents (if clear or colored). BPA-free.
Cons: May crack or break if dropped from some height on very sharp, hard, or ragged surfaces.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
A semi-rigid plastic used in milk jugs and some water containers. Appropriate for outdoor pursuits such as hiking and backpacking.
Temperature range: -148°F to 248°F (-100°C to 120°C).
To identify: Traditionally, HDPE is often a cloudy white color; colored versions are available. Exterior is firm yet slightly pliable.
Recycling number: No. 2.
Pros: Low weight; durable. Bottle's content level is viewable. Less expensive than copolyester or polycarbonate. BPA-free.
Cons: With force, could be punctured. May retain or convey some odors or tastes.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
A more flexible version of polyethylene commonly used in squeezable water bottles, hydration reservoirs and some collapsible water containers. Popular with cyclists and day hikers.
Temperature range: -148°F to 180°F (-100°C to 82°C). Manufacturer opinions vary on LDPE's suitability for use in microwaves. Use caution.
To identify: Opaque; available in many colors; squeezable.
Recycling number: No. 4.
Pros: Low weight; durable; flexible; less expensive. BPA-free.
Cons: Susceptible to punctures. Could melt if too close to a fire. May retain or convey some odors or tastes (though some manufacturers use proprietary techniques to negate odor- and taste-transfer concerns).
Lightweight, rugged material. Can't shatter. Appropriate for most outdoor pursuits.
All aluminum bottles use a lining that resists tastes and odors. Watch for third-party documentation from bottle vendors that bisphenol A (BPA) is not used in the production or application of the liner. BPA is explained in more detail in the Polycarbonate section of this article (found below).
One of the best-known makers of aluminum bottles, made headlines in September 2009 when it acknowledged that, unknown to retailers and consumers, the epoxy-based liners used in its bottles prior to August 2008 contained BPA. Since August 2008, most bottles use a new taste-neutral, food-compatible "EcoCare" liner that it states is made from a powder-based copolyester and is free of BPA.
Temperature range: Not recommended for freezing or for accepting boiling water. Not for use in microwave ovens.
To identify: Lightweight metal; often in a narrow profile; available in many colors.
Pros: Low weight; very durable; retains few, if any, odors or tastes. Some models offer interesting exterior art.
Cons: Can dent (though without damaging lining in most cases). Transfers temperature of contents to its exterior.
Notes: Hand-washing is recommended due to narrow shape. Dishwasher use does no damage other than causing exterior to fade. SIGG recommends consumption of fruit juices within 12 hours to prevent fermenting.
Tough, durable material. Commonly constructed without liners. Stylish exterior. Most commonly used for day trips or urban use.
Temperature range: Not recommended for freezing or for accepting boiling water. (For hot beverages, choose a vacuum bottle, which is an insulated stainless-steel container.) The maker of the Klean Kanteen product line advises: "Warm beverages can be used at personal comfort level." Not for use in microwave ovens.
To identify: Silvery, metallic exterior; slight hefty feel.
Pros: Very durable; retains few, if any, odors or tastes. Suitable for acidic beverages.
Cons: A touch heavy. Can dent if forcefully struck. Most models transfer temperature of contents to their exteriors.
Polycarbonate (Common Brand Name: Lexan® )
Many companies have halted the sale of polycarbonate water bottles. Polycarbonate is a tough, translucent plastic that gained much of its rigidity from the addition of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Questions about the suitability of BPA in beverage containers led companies to offer the variety of BPA-free water bottle alternatives described above.
Scientific debate on BPA is ongoing, and a consensus view has not been achieved. The European Union's Food Safety Authority currently regards BPA is safe, as do regulatory bodies in Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.
If you're wondering if any of your existing water bottles are made from polycarbonate, here are some clues:
To identify: Bottles may be clear, colored or frosted. Rigid construction.
Reycling number: None or No. 7. (Note: In the recycling industry, No. 7 is resin identification code that serves as miscellaneous, catch-all category for plastics still awaiting a broadly accepted recycling technology. Until one is achieved, most recyclers discard No. 7 items (sometimes also stamped with the word "Other"). Some recyclers, however, will accept No. 7 items. Note: Not all plastic bottles bearing a No. 7 imprint contain BPA.
Cleaning of Bottles
Follow manufacturer recommendations for dishwasher use. Many manufacturers of the styles described above claim their products are dishwasher-safe (if placed on the top rack). Yet hand-cleaning (and thorough drying) is often recommended for the most effective results.
Nearly every brand of reservoir will claim some sort of proprietary composition. Reservoirs are very flexible; all are BPA-free. BPA's chief attribute is its ability to create a very hard, rigid version of plastic.
Some reservoirs are quite sophisticated in their efforts to combine durability, taste-free environments and safe materials. One model bonds a tough polyethylene exterior to two super-thin liner layers that put the water in contact with metallocene LLDPE, an "ultralow" version of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and a high-grade material used in food packaging. Many reservoirs use a food-grade polyurethane as a liner, another good material.
Any reservoir and sip tube should be emptied immediately when a trip is complete and be allowed to air out and dry. The crew at Cascade Designs (maker of Platypus and MSR Dromedary, Hydromedary and Cloudliner reservoirs) offers the following tip for keeping reservoirs and tubing fresh and taste-free:
Mix 1 or 2 cups of baking soda with 2 or 3 quarts of water. Squeeze half a lemon into that mixture, pour it into a reservoir and let it sit for 1 or 2 days. Empty the reservoir, rinse it very well and arrange it so it can dry fully.
Some of that mixture can also be used to soak a sip tube to restore its freshness. Another option: Soak the tube in a mild bleach solution. Again, rinse and dry thoroughly. Ensuring that a reservoir dries completely is important. Design
While some arty exceptions exist, most water bottles offer a cylindrical shape so the bottles slide smoothly into side pockets on packs. Smaller cycling bottles are sized to fit frame cages.
The chief variant in bottle design is the size of the opening. Which is best? Let your personal preferences be your guide. Basically, you will choose either a wide opening that accommodates a big gusher of a flow rate or a restricted opening that minimizes your risk of spills.
Very popular. Many offer a 63mm opening, a width that:
fills quickly and easily;
most closely mimics a standard drinking glass, proving a high flow rate;
easily accommodates ice cubes;
matches the threads found on many water filters so you can forge a no-spill, filter-to-bottle connection while pumped water flows through the filter. It's a nice feature.
If tipped, contents don't flood out of the bottle so rapidly. Some backcountry gourmets find narrow mouths allow them to more easily control a bottle's pour rate. (Optional pour spouts are also available for some bottles.) Push-Pull Valve
Commonly found on cycling bottles; also used on larger bottles. Pull to open, push to close. Some people love this valve's spill protection; others weary of the pulling and pushing. However, if you remember to close the valve, water won't spill if the bottle is tipped. Bite Valve
Often attached to a straw-styled tube that sits inside the bottle. Same bite-to-drink methodology as found on many hydration systems, which to some is an acquired taste. Valve automatically closes after each use, so a tipped bottle causes no spills. Volume
Many water bottles are quart-sized (32 fluid ounces). This standard volume simplifies the treatment of backcountry water. One chlorine dioxide tablet, for instance, is recommended for disinfecting a quart of water; the Steri-PEN is programmed to work best with 16 or 32 fl. oz. of water. Other bottle sizes exist, primarily for the sake of a distinctive look.
A quart of water weighs a touch more than 2 pounds. You can choose a smaller bottle to save weight. Just know your route well enough so you don't run out of water during a long ridge walk or other prolonged dry stretch. Large-Volume Containers
Most, if not all, large storage containers (3 quarts and larger) are constructed with BPA-free polyethylene. Some have rigid sides and are designed for campground use. Foldable models can hold a couple of gallons yet weigh just a few ounces, making them suitable for multiday backcountry use where a base camp will be established. Extras
Arty designs are cool, though pragmatic types may find bottles with markings such as measuring indicators (4, 8, 12, 16 fl. oz.) are more useful. Add a belt bottle holster to keep a bottle within easy reach.
Fabric bottle insulators can extend the desired temperature of the liquid in your bottle.
Bottles (or reservoirs) with openings that are compatible with a filter you own are very handy. The standard width is 63mm.
A 2007 New York Times article reported that Americans consume more than 30 billion single-serving bottles of water annually. The nonprofit Consumer Recycling Institute estimates at least half, and probably closer to 75%, of these bottles turn into waste. That means they wind up in landfills, get incinerated or turn into litter.
Those figures do not take into account the materials (petroleum being chief among them), production costs and transportation costs associated with plastic bottles. It all provides more incentive to find a reusable water bottle to carry with you on and off the trail.
"To the people of poor nations, we
pledge to work alongside you to make
your farms flourish and LetCleanWatersFlow, to nourish starved
bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy
relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to
suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources
without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change
with it". Source: President Obama, Inaugural Speech, January 20, 2009, Washington, DC, USA.