If you follow conservation or green efforts at all, you’ve certainly heard that it’s super-bad for the environment to use and discard plastic water bottles. And if you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that each week I take a look at a different virtual water-user and discuss ways to cut back on your use. Can you guess the topic of this post? I have a reusable plastic water bottle that I love. My sister gave it to me as a gift a year ago, and I take it with me to work, on hikes, and on long road trips. It’s great. I used to have a metal water bottle, until I forgot it at a rest stop on a road trip. Prior to that, I had a plastic water bottle, until I dropped it on the ground and it cracked open. Before that, I had a metal water bottle that I forgot… somewhere?
The purpose of that story? To look at the details of the water-bottle production. To make a single disposable water bottle, the bottle-making company will use six or seven litres of water to produce a 1-liter water bottle – and that’s not even counting the water in the bottle.
By comparison, to make a reusable plastic water bottle, a company must use far more water (and other resources) to create a reusable plastic or metal water bottle. Of course, re-using a water bottle many times will end up in more savings over time than continually using and throwing away disposable water bottles. The problem arises from that “over time” clause – how can you save over time when you’re continually losing or breaking your water bottles?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to give a definitive answer about the line where buying a reusable water bottle becomes more sustainable than buying a disposable one. It depends on the brand, size, thickness, and material the bottle is made of. That being said, if you use your water bottle on a regular basis, a reusable bottle will almost always be more virtual-water-friendly than a disposable one.
If, however, you rarely drink bottled water, maybe only when you’re travelling, or only on a rare occasion, you’re probably better off buying a disposable water bottle and recycling it when you’re done. (I know, it sounds crazy. Trust me, this will probably be the last time I say it’s a good time to use any disposable product).
So, there you go. If you’re inclined to think about the water used for everything you do, take some time to think about the water that makes a bottle in addition the water that’s in the bottle.