Backpackers, hikers, and climbers have always relied on reusable water bottles. As the general public becomes more aware of the negative environmental impacts of commercial bottled water (see “The Bottled Water Problem” below) they’re turning to reusable bottles too.
But, with health concerns about some plastics making the news, many are left confused. In what should you store your filtered or tap water? And is that old polycarbonate plastic bottle safe, or is it leaching chemical compounds? (see “What’s the Deal with BPA?” below)
Whether it’s for a trek into the backcountry or a trip to the store, there are a growing number of aluminum, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic alternatives to choose from, beyond the popular, but potentially problematic, polycarbonate water bottle.
- 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to make water bottles in the U.S. each year.
- Bottled water also requires oil for shipping, refrigerating, and even recycling.
- 86% of plastic bottles in the U.S. end up in a landfill or incinerator.
- More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day — 22 billion a year.
- Water quality standards set by the EPA for tap water are more stringent than the FDA’s standards for bottled water.
- Ounce for ounce, bottled water costs more than gasoline.
At 100 years old, the stylish Swiss company is coming off its strongest year ever in the United States. SIGG bottles, made from a single piece of aluminum (no leaks), have a water-based, non-toxic interior coating. The liner’s finish helps protect from bacteria and mold and is neutral and resistant to fruit acids and energy drinks (so drinks taste like they should). SIGG bottles have been independently tested to prove they are completely leach-free and are 100 percent recyclable.
Capacity: 1 liter (33.8 oz)
Guyot Designs and Nalgene
Guyot Designs’ stainless steel, wide mouth bottles are the only ones that work with standard 63 mm water purifiers and accessories. Through May 2008, the unlined, single wall bottles are available only through Guyot. After that they’ll be co-branded with Nalgene, so expect wider availability soon.
As part of their C-Minus program, every Guyot bottle comes with more than enough greenhouse gas offsets to offset the negative impact of their manufacture (100 lbs of verified greenhouse emissions). And, like all stainless steel bottles, they’re 100 percent recyclable.
Capacity: 32 oz (946 ml)
Weight: 12.3 oz (350 g)
Capacity: 24 oz (710 ml)
Weight: 10 oz (280 g)
Since 2004, Klean Kanteen has produced unlined, stainless steel bottles in children’s (12 ounce) sizes up to 40 ounces. Bottles come with a range of cap options (sport, flat, loop, sippy for the small set) and are clean tasting, dishwasher friendly, and 100 percent recyclable. Klean Kanteen’s first colored bottles will debut in late spring of 2008.
Stainless Steel Bottles
18 oz/Kid Kanteen
SIGG’s signature item is its aluminum lifestyle bottle, but the company also offers stainless steel thermoses, vacuum-insulated mugs, and, new for 2008, a thermal bottle and a vintage oval bottle.
Hot & Cool
Capacity: 0.5 liters (17 oz)
The designer Vintage Oval bottle has a smooth hand feel and a leak-proof, retro swing top.
Capacity: 0.4 liters (13.5 oz)
Weight: 5.8 oz
CamelBak’s Performance and Podium Bike bottles are, and always have been, BPA- and phthalate-free. By summer 2008 all CamelBak bottles, including new Better Bottles and Classic Cap Bottles, will be BPA- and phthalate-free.
What’s the Deal with BPA?
Due to health concerns about infertility and cancer, Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) pulled most products containing bisphenol-A (BPA) in December. Vancouver yoga retailer Lululemon Athletica followed suit. Patagonia pulled polycarbonate products from its retail stores back in 2005.
Bisphenol-A (BPA), found in polycarbonate plastics (#7/other, sometimes called Lexan), is an endocrine disruptor that has been shown to affect reproduction and brain development in animal studies. it can leach into foods and liquids and mimics estrogen when absorbed by the human body.
Think new polycarbonate bottles are okay? A recent study by University of Cincinnati scientists showed that liquid temperature, not a container’s age, has the most impact on how much BPA is released. When the same new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles were exposed to boiling hot water, BPA was released 55 times more rapidly than before exposure to hot water. (Toxicology Letters)
Phthalates are used as plastic softeners or solvents. They are believed to cause damage to the reproductive system and increase the risks of allergies, asthma, and cancer. They’re banned from toys and childcare items in Europe.
GSI Outdoors reportedly is working on a BPA-free water bottle and aims to eliminate BPA across its product line by 2009. GSI already offers stainless steel vacuum bottles, mugs, and flasks.