5 Best Eco-Friendly Water Containers of 2021 (Carbon Neutral Water Bottle)
Scientists have been warning us for years that our lifestyles are destroying the planet.
Using eco-friendly water containers and stainless steel water bottles can go a long way toward reducing the problem created by plastics, but not all products are created equal.
Regardless of the material or type of reusable water bottle you get, there are going to be carbon costs from production. But the awesome news is… the CO2 doesn’t have to be an issue.
In fact, there are some really great eco-friendly options available, that not only prevent plastic waste but also counteract the carbon emissions from manufacturing— making them completely carbon neutral!
Finding The Best Water Containers And Bottles For 2021 (With Eco-Friendly Insulated Steel)
With just a few changes—which actually have the power to save you money—you can improve your quality of life, and help save the planet. It all starts with one of earth’s most abundant resources… water.
According to Harvard University’s Office of Sustainability, it takes more than 17 million barrels of oil per year to produce enough plastic to generate US plastic water bottles.1 So, why are most people using a non-renewable, highly polluting resource to produce 1-use containers? It just doesn’t make sense.
Do you know what else doesn’t make sense? Paying a dollar or more for a bottle of something that literally falls out of the sky. The American Water Works Association estimates that bottled water costs $1.22 per gallon, about 300 times more than the cost of tap water in the US.2 Not to mention, about 44% of bottled water actually comes from a tap originally.3
Materials and Styles of Eco Friendly Water Bottles
When buying any product, it’s worth spending a couple of minutes figuring out how your purchase will affect the planet. Stainless steel insulated water bottles can last for decades, and because of the cumulative costs, even if you paid $100 for it (but most are much less expensive), you would still save money.
Because bottled water is expensive compared to tap, and it’s America’s most popular drink for a few years now.4
Americans spend about $14.4 billion per year on bottled water. That amounts to about $43 per year, per person! The average cost of bottled water is about $0.64/gallon, while the average cost of tap water is about $0.02/gallon.1 Switching to tap water would save you quite a bit of money over the years.
Is Bottled Water Better for You?
Many people know that plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, but have the impression that bottled water is better for you. However, that’s a myth.
Bottled water is not safer or healthier than tap water, according to experts at Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, the American Dental Association, and WebMD among many others.1,5,6,7 One reason is that the natural minerals in tap water are necessary for health. Distilled water filters them out. Likewise, with “spring” water, it contains the minerals, but also can contain a variety of other microbes.
The idea that bottled water is better than tap water simply isn’t true in America and many other industrialized nations, but it’s an idea that beverage corporations have spent millions of dollars’ worth of marketing to make sure you believe. How else would they get you to buy something that’s (on average) 31 times more expensive than the water you can get at home1?
So, there has to be some advantage, right? There is – but that advantage is convenience, not health. And even then, it is arguably less convenient if it means you have to go to the store to buy your water, instead of walking to the kitchen to fill up a reusable bottle.
Types of Bottled Water
Most bottled water options fall into three categories, purified (distilled), spring water, or tap.
- Distilled: This water has been treated, usually with osmosis, to remove all contaminants… but it also removes all minerals. Using purified water for some sinus treatments is mandatory, but water can be purified through the boiling process at home.24
- Spring: Spring water is labeled that way because it is sometimes treated to remove certain chemicals, but impurities like metals, nitrates, and more can still be in the water.
- Tap: Depending on the water system (like the U.S.) tap water is continually tested to ensure that it meets stringent guidelines for health and safety. However like spring water, impurities can be present in certain accepted levels.
What Are BPA-Free Water Bottles?
BPA is one of the many different types of toxins that can leach into drinking water from plastic containers.
Like most toxins, it is safe at very low levels but it is considered dangerous at high levels. BPA has also been associated with breast cancer.15 Using steel is recommended by the EPA as a means of avoiding it, but ultimately everyone has different risk tolerances, and even scientists have varying views about their impact of toxic substances such as BPA.14
Eco-Friendly Water Container Options for 2021
Since we know that there’s really no advantage to buying distilled water —unless you are using it for specific health purposes… and you can distill it at home by simply boiling it— finding a better option for the environment reduces plastic waste filling our oceans, and fights climate change.
Vacuum Insulated Water Bottles
Vacuum-insulated water bottles are exactly what they sound like – water bottles that keep beverages hot or cold using a vacuum seal. In order for heat to get into your water bottle, it has to travel through something (like the way sound has to travel through air). With the vacuum layer, heat cannot escape from the inside, and heat cannot enter from the outside.
Putting a vacuum in between the inside and the outside of the bottle is a cost-effective way to keep your beverages hot or cold.
Insulated Water Bottles With Straws Included
Many people prefer to drink from straws, and there are many eco-friendly water containers that use them. Straws have been in the media a lot recently as something bad for the environment, but there’s nothing wrong with water bottles that use straws (hopefully not plastic).
Glass Water Bottles versus Plastic
Yes, plastic is bad for the environment and (some argue) your health, but glass can contribute to the waste problem too, unless it’s recycled.
Although companies make various types of packaging to point out that their products can be recycled, the sad reality is that the vast majority end up in landfills. On average, only 37.6% of recyclable beverage containers are actually recycled.8
Single-use glass and plastic bottles (like many single-use products) are terrible for the environment. They take hundreds of years to degrade.8 On the other hand, steel is one of the most recycled materials on the planet,22 and stainless steel works much better to insulate your beverage than water. It also won’t shatter if you drop it, because it is much more durable. There is no use investing in a reusable water container if it breaks after only a few uses.
Finding a Leak Proof and Dishwasher Safe Water Bottle
It may surprise you to learn that many water bottles are neither leak proof nor dishwasher safe. Leaking water bottles typically occur for one of three reasons – they’re low quality, they’ve worn out over time, or they’re plastic and you’ve put them in the dishwasher. It’s generally a bad idea to put plastic-ware in the dishwasher because plastics are sensitive to heat, and drying racks can get extremely hot.
In fact, heat from the drying cycle of the dishwasher will actually cause many reusable plastic water bottles to melt or deform. Aside from being aesthetically displeasing, their deformed shape may cause it to tip over when you set it down. It can also cause either the cap or the top of the bottle itself to deform, preventing it from obtaining a proper seal and causing it to leak. In other words, it can make them unusable.
Do a quick google search for images of “water bottle melted in dishwasher” and you’ll see what we mean. Reusable plastic bottles may be cheaper at first glance, but if you have to keep replacing them, the value to your wallet and the planet disappears.
Know Your Reusable Water Bottle Facts
Plastic water bottles are expensive, they’re bad for the environment, and they may leach toxic chemicals into your water.9,10 However, there is no single perfect eco-friendly water bottle because your use and taste will vary.
You can make the best choice, though, by learning about the best metal water bottles on the market.
Less Plastics In Landfills and Oceans
What happens to the rest of them? The vast majority of plastic container waste in the US ends up in landfills.8 When exposed to heat and water (which many will be, in landfills) or in hot environments such as cars, shipping trucks, etcetera, plastic water bottles release toxins such as antimony, a carcinogenic chemical element that can cause a slew of other serious medical issues.9,10
Perhaps the most obvious environmental impact of using reusable water bottles is not having to deal with the plastic ones after a single use, but according to Harvard University’s Office of Sustainability, “The entire life cycle of bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and causes pollution.”1 This is due to their mass production, transportation, and their cycle in the market, and all of the carbon emitted along the way.
Since plastic water bottles aren’t biodegradable, some of them end up in the ocean.8 And, typical plastic water bottles last for about 700 years in nature, but recycling just 10 pounds of them prevents about 3.3 pounds of carbon from being emitted.11
A recent scientific report predicted that by 2050, there will actually be more plastic in the ocean (by mass) than fish!23 By purchasing an eco-friendly water container that was produced with the environment in mind, you can rest assured you are doing all you can to reduce not only the harm of plastic bottles, but also your carbon footprint.
Refillable Water Containers And Non-Plastic, Non-Toxic Water Bottles
There are three obvious reasons to choose a steel/aluminum refillable water bottle.
- First, they’re solid and will last for years with proper care (which in most cases probably means until you lose it).
- Second, a good steel/aluminum water bottle can’t leach BPA, antimony, or any other toxins associated with plastics.
- Finally, it’s cheaper. Over time, it’s actually cheaper for a typical American to pay $100 for a good refillable water bottle than it is to continue using bottled water (but of course, we don’t suggest you spend that much)
Bottled Water Carbon Emissions Cost
Bottled water is often imported from other countries or transported long distance from its collection source, which adds to its carbon footprint.
Additionally, even the small percentage of single-use plastic water bottles that are recycled don’t help as much as you might think. This is because about 40% of them actually have to be transported to other countries for recycling, and the fuel burned to transport them has to be added into the carbon cost.12
The carbon cost of transportation isn’t just a recycling issue, either. The popular bottled water brand Fiji is imported from Fiji – an island about 11,000 miles from the US where only about half of its citizens have clean drinking water.
It’s not exactly a model of sustainability. In fact, a study showed that in 2006, the 18 million gallons of bottled water shipped from Fiji to California alone produced over 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide.13
It’s hard to fathom the amount of carbon emissions associated with plastic water bottles, but even harder when you consider the plastic waste produced, and the damage that draining springs and aquifers can cause to the environment.
This is why it is so important to factor in the carbon output during the production process, even with reusable water bottles. The best bet for the environment is to choose one that not only is reusable and made from sustainable materials, but actively counteracts the environmental impact of its production.
It is a similar dynamic to electric cars. It is great that the car is electric and won’t be consuming natural resources or emitting harmful gasses, but the carbon footprint of its production that’s often overlooked. If it is not offset, then the car isn’t doing as much good as it could.
What Are Microplastics?
Simply put, microplastics are small plastic particles that detach from larger pieces of plastic. It’s estimated that the average American consumes 39,000 – 52,000 microparticles each year, much of which can be traced back to using single-use plastic drinking bottles.16 And, those particles are clogging up the oceans as well.
In fact, people who only drink bottled water consume about 90,000 additional microplastics (compared to a mere 4,000 microplastics per year for people who consume only tap water).16 The world’s understanding of the full health effects of microplastics is still in its infancy, but the current information indicates potential particle, chemical, and microbial hazards.17
Best Metal Water Bottles and Stainless Steel Options For Outdoors
There are a number of stainless steel insulated water containers that deliver practical solutions to the plastic problem. Without worrying about price, what are some of the most important factors when choosing a water bottle?
Things to look for include:
- Vacuum sealed closures (like a Thermos)
- Durable construction
- Good ratings from users
- Large capacity in convenient size
- Insulated to keep liquids cold or hot longer
- Dishwasher safe
- Green materials
Price Considerations—How Much Should It Cost?
As noted above, the average American spends about $43 a year on bottled water because it is over 30 times more expensive than tap water. A high quality, refillable water bottle should cost from between $20-$50 depending on size. So, it will pay for itself within one year of use.
Carbon Positive Products
There are some products that offer a ‘carbon positive’ option. This means that instead of generating carbon emissions in bottle production, these companies are performing long-term sustainability activity to erase the CO2.
For example, 8 Billion Trees plants new trees and conserves existing forests with every product sold, meaning that the product you buy is actually working to sequester carbon around the world.
Finding the best reusable water bottle for your needs just requires a little research. But, when you commit to stop buying bottled water, that action alone will provide long term benefits for the environment… and if everyone would agree to do the same, the bottled water market (and its emissions and waste) will eventually disappear.
Most Style: S’well Insulated Steel Water Bottle
The Good: From a company that began with the goal of eliminating plastic waste, these great looking bottles have quickly become a leader in the reusable beverage holder market, both for their performance and appearance. S’well continues to produce new styles and patterns,18 and the original 25oz bottle is triple insulated, keeping drinks cold for 48 hours, and hot drinks hot for 24 hours ($45). Plus, you can personalize your bottle with your name or initials.
The Bad: This bottle is popular, but that means it comes with a higher price tag. The value for the size of the bottle is significantly worse than the rest of the bottles on this list.
Best Carbon Neutral Option: 8 Billion Trees Stainless Steel Bottle
The Good: 8 Billion Tree’s water bottles come in 16oz or 40oz sizes, and they can be either white or green. A major advantage they have over the competitors is that purchasing them helps protect and restore the environment. 8 Billion Trees’ afforestation efforts offset the CO2 from the bottle’s production, as well as those generated by any plastic used.
The Bad: The options for these eco-friendly water containers only include two sizes and two colors.
Most Bang for your Buck: Hydro Cell Stainless Steel Water Bottle
The Good: Hydro Cell’s water bottles are stainless steel, insulated, and come in various sizes.19 They also come with a handy extra cap, so that you have one that is 100% leak proof which allows you to easily attach it to a backpack, as well as a sports lid designed for on-the-go use. They even have an impressive 4.8 rating on Amazon, costing from $14.99 for 14oz bottles, to $28.99 for 64oz bottles. For those who are skeptical of the lower price, fear not: the lifetime warranty serves as testament to the quality!
The Bad: The straw lid that is included with this bottle will leak when on its side, and is made of plastic. It also has a smaller mouth which makes it difficult to fill with ice from the fridge, and doesn’t insulate as well as it advertises, according to reviews.
Best Insulation: Corkcicle Triple Insulated Canteen
The Good: The Corkcicle canteen has not two, but three layers of insulation to keep your cold drinks cold for 25 hours and your hot ones hot for 12 hours.20 That is one of the longest insulation periods on the market! The stainless steel interior of the bottle is designed not to retain any taste, so you can put your water, juice, or even coffee inside and not worry. Plus with three layers of insulation, no matter what temperature the contents are, there won’t be any condensation — nor will you burn your hand. Available in 9oz, 16oz, 25oz, or 60oz, and ranging from $14.40 to $39.95, there are plenty of options to suit your lifestyle.
The Bad: If you don’t like sipping out of a small mouth lid, you’re out of luck with this bottle. Although you can purchase a straw lid separately, there are not many different design options for this bottle. For some customers, it also has arrived scratched or dented.
Best Built-in Straw: Hydro Flask Reusable Water Bottle
The Good: If you hate having to unscrew the bottle top every time you want to take a sip of water, consider a reusable bottle with a built-in straw cap. Hydro Flask’s version is the best.21 Their double-walled, vacuum-insulated, nontoxic, BPA-free bottle will keep drinks icy cold for up to 24 hours, and keep liquids hot for up to 6 hours. The powder coating provides a solid grip and zero condensation. Unlike other options where you have to bite down on a rubber straw to drink, this straw won’t get gross over time, which makes it the best in the straw realm. They cost $49.95 for the 32oz option, but are available in a variety of other sizes and designs.
The Bad: According to the reviews, this bottle seems to dent or scratch easily, and the straw has broken for some people. Luckily, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, so the company will replace it as long as you keep proof of purchase.
1Harvard University Office of Sustainability. (2020, 11 26). Top Three Reasons to Avoid Bottled Water. Retrieved from Harvard.edu: https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/reasons-avoid-bottled-water
2Boesler, M. (2013, July 12). Bottled Water Costs 2000 Times As Much As Tap Water. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/bottled-water-costs-2000x-more-than-tap-2013-7.
3Gleick, P. H., & Cooley, H. S. (2009). Energy implications of bottled water. Environmental Research Letters, 4(1), 014009. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/4/1/014009
4Beverage Marketing Corporation. (2020). WATER BEVERAGE REVOLUTION: ENHANCED AND FUNCTIONAL WATERS IN THE U.S., THE. Beverage Marketing Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.beveragemarketing.com/shop/us-bottled-water.aspx
5Katherine Zeratsky, R. L. (2020, May 19). Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/tap-vs-bottled-water/faq-20058017
6The American Dental Association. (2003). Journal of the American Dental Association, 134, 1287. Retrieved from https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_30.ashx
7Bouchez, C. (2020, 11 27). Is Bottled Water Better? Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/is-bottled-water-better#1
8US Environmetal Protection Agency. (2020, 11 26). Frequent Questions regarding EPA’s Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling. Retrieved from Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/frequent-questions-regarding-epas-facts-and#:
9Sundar, S., & Chakravarty, J. (2010, December). Antimony toxicity. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037053/.
10Westerhoff, P., Prapaipong, P., Shock, E., & Hillaireau, A. (2008). Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used for bottled drinking water. Water Research, 551-556. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17707454/
11California.gov. (2020, 1 6). Just the Facts. Retrieved from CalRecycle: https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/bevcontainer/consumers/facts
12Sustainable UMD. (n.d.). Bottled Water Facts: Did You Know? Retrieved from Sustainable UMD: https://sustainability.umd.edu/get-involved/staff/terps-heart-tap/bottled-water-facts-did-you-know
13The Walmart Sustainability Case Project. (2013). Walmart’s Sustainability Journey: Bottled Water Mini Case. University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business and University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business. Retrieved from https://www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/moore/documents/sustainability/bottled_water_mini_case.pdf
14Brent A. Bauer, M. (2019, December 18). Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved from Healthy Lifestyle: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331
15Wang, Z., Liu, H., & Liucorresponding, S. (2017). Low‐Dose Bisphenol A Exposure: A Seemingly Instigating Carcinogenic Effect on Breast Cancer. Advanced Science (Weinh). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5323866/
16Cox, K. D., Covernton, G. A., Davies, H. L., Dower, J. F., Juanes, F., & Dudas, S. E. (2019). Human Consumption of Microplastics. Environmental Science and Technology, 7068-7074. Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517
17Wright, S. L., & Kelly, F. J. (2017). Plastic and Human Health: A Micro Issue? Environmental Science and Technology, 6634-6647. Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b00423
18Amazon.com, Inc. (2021). S’well Insulated Water Bottles. Retrieved 08 2021, June, from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/1F4CA2E0-50EB-40C9-B4E8-C50D8AC65D68
19Amazon.com, Inc. (2021). HYDRO CELL Stainless Steel Water Bottle w/Straw & Standard Mouth Lids (32oz 24oz 20oz 16oz) – Keeps Liquids Hot or Cold with Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Sweat Proof Sport Design. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from Amazon.com,: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082DXRKTQ
20Amazon.com, Inc. (2021). Corkcicle Canteen – Water Bottle & Thermos – Triple Insulated Stainless Steel, 16 oz, Gloss Turquoise. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GG0CDZC
21Amazon.com, Inc. (2021). Hydro Flask Water Bottle – Wide Mouth Straw Lid 2.0 – Multiple Sizes & Colors. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083GBV7M5/
22Is Stainless Steel Recyclable? Calbrite. (2018, February 19). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from calbrite.com: https://www.calbrite.com/articles/shop-talk/stainless-steel-recyclable/#:~:text=Steel%20is%20the%20most%20recycled%20material%20on%20the%20planet.&text=When%20stainless%20steel%20is%20recycled,manufactured%20using%20previously%20recycled%20materials.
23Harrington , R. (2017, January 27). By 2050, the oceans could have more plastic than fish. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Businessinsider.com: https://www.businessinsider.com/plastic-in-ocean-outweighs-fish-evidence-report-2017-1
24TapItWater. (2021, May 20). Spring Water vs Purified Water: Which is Better for You? Retrieved May June, 2021, from Tapitwater.com: https://tapitwater.com/spring-water-vs-purified-water/