Summer Refreshers: Cool for You & the Planet

BlogHer Original Post

As some of us enter the "dog days of summer," we'll be reaching more often for a cold beverage.  But what if our cool drink of choice is actually contributing to global warming?  How many of us stop to consider the energy emissions created by extracting, bottling, and shipping all of our refreshing sodas, teas and waters? And what about the plastic bottle waste generated after that beverage is consumed?  According to the Container Recycling Institute, only 23.5% of plastic beverage containers in the U.S. are actually recycled each year.  But if we give up bottled beverages, what can we drink instead?

Here are a few ideas for staying hydrated this summer without heating up the planet:

1) Take back the tap.  Why pay for bottled water when when we can fill up our glasses or reusable bottles from our own taps?  Tap water is not only less expensive than bottled water, but it's also more highly regulated.  According to a report released last month by the Government Accountability Office, bottled water, which is regulated by the FDA as a food, is subject to less stricter standards than tap water, which is regulated by the EPA.  Additionally, the GAO found that bottled water requires vastly more energy to manufacture and transport than tap water and that it can have negative effects on local community water supplies.  Jennifer Taggart from The Smart Mama writes:

One of the most green things you can do is STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER. It is that simple. And don't buy those 5 gallon bottled water jugs either for your office. Drink tap water. (BTW, most of those 5 gallon bottles are polycarbonate plastic, and can leach the hormone disruptor BPA.)

2) Filter your water if necessary.  In our home, we used a Culligan kit to test our water for lead and other contaminants which could leach from the pipes.  Fortunately for us, our Oakland water passed with flying colors.  We have opted not to use a filter at all.  But if you object to the smell or taste of your water, look into one of the many home filtering options available.  Filtering your own water will still cost less than purchasing bottled water.  Check the NSF Product Listings site to find a filter that addresses your particular filtration needs.  And keep in mind that some companies take back and recycle their plastic filter cartridges as well.  Both Brita and Zero Water have take-back programs in place.

3) Add some fizz.   I love soda in the summertime.  And I can have it with zero plastic bottle waste using my soda maker.  A soda maker allows me to combine my own tap water with CO2 from a returnable cartridge and enjoy as many or as few bubbles as I like.  The aluminum cartridges are returned to the company to be refilled.  And the machine itself requires no additional electricity or other power source.  Karina from Tiny Choices says:

All in all, I’m about ten-thousand percent satisfied with my new source for seltzer. I feel much better about not bringing home containers from the grocery (and then putting them outside for recycling).

4) Add some flavor.  Here comes the fun part.   While you can purchase flavoring concentrates from Soda Club to add to your fizzy water, why not skip the extra packaging and make your own?  Here are a few ideas:

  • A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice (from the actual fruit, not a plastic bottle!)
  • Combine equal parts fresh-squeezed orange juice and fizzy water for your own homemade Orangina (thanks to Condo Blues for this idea.)
  • Follow Green Bean's recipe to make your own cherry vanilla soda.
  • Cataloupe, lime, & sugar make a Melon Cooler.
  • Or how about substituting watermelon for a refreshing Aqua Fresca?

The possibilities are endless.  What are some of your favorites?

5) Skip the soda machine and add some yeast! Don't want to invest in a soda maker?  Make soda the old fashioned way, with water and yeast.  According to Mother Earth News:

Store-bought soda is made with sugar - usually in the inexpensive form of corn syrup - water and artificial flavorings, and force-carbonated with carbon dioxide:

The gas is pumped directly into the beverage. In homemade soda, the main ingredients also are sugar and water, but in this mixture, the carbon dioxide is produced naturally through fermentation: Once the other soda ingredients have been mixed together, yeast is added to the beverage. Then, it's allowed to sit at room temperature for a day or two so the yeast cells can consume some of the sugar and form carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct.

In her post, Carbonate My Summer, blogger Chile shares an awesome recipe for homemade ginger beer as well as her attempt at cherry vanilla soda.

 

For more posts about bottled water and why tap water is the sustainable choice, please check out Green Moms Speak Out On Bottled Water.

For creative ways to stay hydrated, please read Jen Lasky's 7 Ways To Make Water Taste Better.

 

What are your favorite ways to drink tap water?

 

Beth Terry writes about finding creative ways to reduce her plastic consumption and plastic waste at Fake Plastic Fish and encourages others to join the fun. We only have one planet. Let's enjoy it instead of cluttering it up with more plastic crap! 

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