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Greening Up Your Travels – Avoiding Bottled Water

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As a traveler I know I use up more resources than a non-traveler. I wish it wasn’t so. 

"Flying over Greenland on a flight between Europe and North America"

Flying over Greenland on a flight between Europe and North America

But there are ways to green up your travels.

But first a fact – one barrel of oil contains 42 US gallons. One US gallon contains 128 ounces. Therefore there are 5,376 ounces of oil in a barrel. Just so you know.

Bottled water is something we can generally avoid as a traveler, though I do appreciate it’s not always possible. But it’s almost always possible in the home or office setting.

Picture this.

"Row after row of bottled water"

Row after row of bottled water

For every bottle you buy of water, the equivalent of one quarter of it is full of oilThat means that every 1 liter bottle has the equivalent of over eight ounces of oil associated with it. And five times that amount of water is used to create that bottle of water. 

Would you buy that bottled water knowing how much oil and water went into the production of it? 

The statistics aren’t pretty either. In 2007, 110 liters of bottled water per person per year was bought in the US alone, a country with safe drinking water. 

Solution: Use a thermos or water bottle and fill from a drinking fountain once you’re through airport security. If the drinking water is contaminated, buy a filter or use water droplets to purify. On the road keep a reusable bottle handy. Simple stuff really.

Have you changed your use of bottled water over time? Less or more??

If you have a green travel tip to share please leave a comment and I will credit you in a future post.

Photo credit: Bottled water

Author Hike Bike Travel

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Hike Bike Travel

Join the discussion 54 Comments

  • Theodora says:

    Great to see a green travel piece that isn’t the usual greenwash, even if it does make uncomfortable reading. Thanks.

  • Theodora says:

    Great to see a green travel piece that isn’t the usual greenwash, even if it does make uncomfortable reading. Thanks.

  • Wow, I had no idea! I don’t generally drink bottled water much. I do sometimes when traveling or when there isn’t another alternative. I do drink a lot of water (and should drink more) but I had no idea about this.

    I guess it’s true – oil and water don’t mix (or shouldn’t anyways!). :)

  • Wow, I had no idea! I don’t generally drink bottled water much. I do sometimes when traveling or when there isn’t another alternative. I do drink a lot of water (and should drink more) but I had no idea about this.

    I guess it’s true – oil and water don’t mix (or shouldn’t anyways!). :)

  • Definitely makes you think when you go on a trip to Asia and you see just how much bottled water is being sold every day.

  • Definitely makes you think when you go on a trip to Asia and you see just how much bottled water is being sold every day.

  • Alouise says:

    I have one of those Vapur bottles, that collapse and are flat when they’re not in use. When I travel in North America I usually just bring that along, and it works well. I don’t have to pay for bottled water, it saves space when it’s empty, plus it’s a green solution. I know there are some countries with unsafe drinking water, but like you mentioned there are filters you can buy.

    • @Alouise That type of bottle is a great idea especially with space limitations. I think if everyone understood what went into making a plastic bottle we’d see a whole lot less of them. And how are you? – haven’t been in touch for a LONG TIME.

  • Alouise says:

    I have one of those Vapur bottles, that collapse and are flat when they’re not in use. When I travel in North America I usually just bring that along, and it works well. I don’t have to pay for bottled water, it saves space when it’s empty, plus it’s a green solution. I know there are some countries with unsafe drinking water, but like you mentioned there are filters you can buy.

    • @Alouise That type of bottle is a great idea especially with space limitations. I think if everyone understood what went into making a plastic bottle we’d see a whole lot less of them. And how are you? – haven’t been in touch for a LONG TIME.

  • Just wanted to say I loved your article! Usually green travel involves simple steps that anyone can take, it just might take a little more thought on our part. Also wanted to say that Camelbak has a really cool, a reasonable priced UV water purifier that you can take along with you to make sure you have safe drinking water and then you wouldn’t have to resort to purchasing water bottles. Think I might try it!

  • Just wanted to say I loved your article! Usually green travel involves simple steps that anyone can take, it just might take a little more thought on our part. Also wanted to say that Camelbak has a really cool, a reasonable priced UV water purifier that you can take along with you to make sure you have safe drinking water and then you wouldn’t have to resort to purchasing water bottles. Think I might try it!

  • AnitaMac says:

    Bottled water is a tough one. Even though we live in a country with safe water, I find I often am buying a bottle when travelling. I would use my refillable water bottle, but it becomes a problem when flying…so I go through security and buy a new bottle of water on the other side. If I am transiting through a few airports, I will fill it with tap water rather than buy a new bottle, but this doesn’t happen often. Multiply by two as I have to return home and often end up with another bottle. Amazing how quickly they add up.

    I had not heard of the vapur bottle – worth investigating. It is great what you can learn on travel blogs! Thanks for the info.

    • @Anita Sometimes it is really difficult to avoid the plastic bottle. I dotry and bring a reusable water bottle and fill it at the airport. In a good part of the world that’s a reasonable solution. I also need to check out the vapur bottle.

  • AnitaMac says:

    Bottled water is a tough one. Even though we live in a country with safe water, I find I often am buying a bottle when travelling. I would use my refillable water bottle, but it becomes a problem when flying…so I go through security and buy a new bottle of water on the other side. If I am transiting through a few airports, I will fill it with tap water rather than buy a new bottle, but this doesn’t happen often. Multiply by two as I have to return home and often end up with another bottle. Amazing how quickly they add up.

    I had not heard of the vapur bottle – worth investigating. It is great what you can learn on travel blogs! Thanks for the info.

    • @Anita Sometimes it is really difficult to avoid the plastic bottle. I dotry and bring a reusable water bottle and fill it at the airport. In a good part of the world that’s a reasonable solution. I also need to check out the vapur bottle.

  • Hi, Thank you so much for posting. I am working on providing green travel tips and inspiration via video at http://www.youtube.com/greenglobetrotter. Keep your eyes and ears posted, or email me to be added to my mailing list!

    You should check out The International Ecotourism Society. They have loads of great green travel advice.

    Best,

    Kendall Gayle

  • Hi, Thank you so much for posting. I am working on providing green travel tips and inspiration via video at http://www.youtube.com/greenglobetrotter. Keep your eyes and ears posted, or email me to be added to my mailing list!

    You should check out The International Ecotourism Society. They have loads of great green travel advice.

    Best,

    Kendall Gayle

  • Kurt says:

    I’m always up in the air as to the quality of US drinking water. I know that we have advanced filtration systems here and that traditionally it was considered safe. I just hear independent studies and even EPA reports, though their partially funded by fines from those companies they regulate, about how toxic some of our water sources are. It’s hard to know who or what to believe.

    Taking steps like these are important for travelers to reduce their impact. The Great Plastic Island of the Pacific just keeps growing. Thanks for the reminder, it helps to refresh how important things like this are.

    • @Kurt Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think it can be a difficult decision in some instance with regard to drinking tap water but generally I’d have to think it’s better to drink it in the States than to further worsen the Plastic Island of the Pacific.

  • Kurt says:

    I’m always up in the air as to the quality of US drinking water. I know that we have advanced filtration systems here and that traditionally it was considered safe. I just hear independent studies and even EPA reports, though their partially funded by fines from those companies they regulate, about how toxic some of our water sources are. It’s hard to know who or what to believe.

    Taking steps like these are important for travelers to reduce their impact. The Great Plastic Island of the Pacific just keeps growing. Thanks for the reminder, it helps to refresh how important things like this are.

    • @Kurt Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think it can be a difficult decision in some instance with regard to drinking tap water but generally I’d have to think it’s better to drink it in the States than to further worsen the Plastic Island of the Pacific.

  • I only learnt this recently – but I didn’t know how much was used to create the bottle of water so will be even more strict from now on. If I do buy bottled water, I try to reuse and refill the bottle until it springs a leak. But, as you say, what about those times when water might not be safe? At the risk of sounding a bit salesy which, believe me, is not my intention, I did a bit of research and opted for Purificup. It’s not one of those pump filters which take a lot of pumping to get a little result. Also with Purificup, the water tastes good which isn’t the case with tablets and UV pens. I wrote a blog on why I like it – I can send you the link if you like – but didn’t want to put it here as thought it might be a bit cheeky!

    • @Tracey I think few people understand the connection between plastics and oil. That needs to change. I haven’t tried the UV pen but I have drops that don’t leave a taste and a heavy duty filter that takes out viruses too. Please go ahead and leave the link to your post in the comments.

  • I only learnt this recently – but I didn’t know how much was used to create the bottle of water so will be even more strict from now on. If I do buy bottled water, I try to reuse and refill the bottle until it springs a leak. But, as you say, what about those times when water might not be safe? At the risk of sounding a bit salesy which, believe me, is not my intention, I did a bit of research and opted for Purificup. It’s not one of those pump filters which take a lot of pumping to get a little result. Also with Purificup, the water tastes good which isn’t the case with tablets and UV pens. I wrote a blog on why I like it – I can send you the link if you like – but didn’t want to put it here as thought it might be a bit cheeky!

    • @Tracey I think few people understand the connection between plastics and oil. That needs to change. I haven’t tried the UV pen but I have drops that don’t leave a taste and a heavy duty filter that takes out viruses too. Please go ahead and leave the link to your post in the comments.

  • Kate says:

    I offset some of my travel carbon by being vegetarian and biking places. For travel, I always make sure I don’t use plastic bags more than I need to (just like at home). I also think slow travel counts as a green travel tip and just generally reducing consumption e.g., not eating meals with lots of packaging while traveling.

  • Kate says:

    I offset some of my travel carbon by being vegetarian and biking places. For travel, I always make sure I don’t use plastic bags more than I need to (just like at home). I also think slow travel counts as a green travel tip and just generally reducing consumption e.g., not eating meals with lots of packaging while traveling.

  • Hi Leigh…hope you don’t mind me adding to your resources here for all. A great film on plastic bottles is Tapped, the movie (http://www.tappedthemovie.com/), where they examine many related issues, and one being how much of the bottled water on the market is no safer than our ordinary tap water, and how a good portion of the bottled water actually comes right from the tap as well.

    Another interesting organization is Travellers Against Plastic (http://www.travelersagainstplastic.org/), with some wonderful stories on refusing plastic bottles in travels to many places, with some simple precautions.

    Glenn

  • Hi Leigh…hope you don’t mind me adding to your resources here for all. A great film on plastic bottles is Tapped, the movie (http://www.tappedthemovie.com/), where they examine many related issues, and one being how much of the bottled water on the market is no safer than our ordinary tap water, and how a good portion of the bottled water actually comes right from the tap as well.

    Another interesting organization is Travellers Against Plastic (http://www.travelersagainstplastic.org/), with some wonderful stories on refusing plastic bottles in travels to many places, with some simple precautions.

    Glenn

  • We used to supply bottled water on our tours, people drank it like fish. We were embarassed to deal with all the empties. For the last 2 years we have supplied good water in a 5 gallon tank, with washable plastic cups. People do not use it unless they are really thristy. They dont use it much. This year we will try selling or giving away reusable plastic water bottles bearing our bear logo. We will see how it goes….

  • We used to supply bottled water on our tours, people drank it like fish. We were embarassed to deal with all the empties. For the last 2 years we have supplied good water in a 5 gallon tank, with washable plastic cups. People do not use it unless they are really thristy. They dont use it much. This year we will try selling or giving away reusable plastic water bottles bearing our bear logo. We will see how it goes….

  • Kathryn says:

    Hate to admit but I had no idea! Thanks for pointing all this out and I’ll certainly try and amend my ways both when travelling and when closer to home.

  • Kathryn says:

    Hate to admit but I had no idea! Thanks for pointing all this out and I’ll certainly try and amend my ways both when travelling and when closer to home.

  • We totally agree! There’s even a few countries where the water is safe, but doesn’t taste very good… which is not always a good reason to buy bottled water. We carry around a thermos for tea (boiling tap water) and a metal water container and are happy with it :)

  • We totally agree! There’s even a few countries where the water is safe, but doesn’t taste very good… which is not always a good reason to buy bottled water. We carry around a thermos for tea (boiling tap water) and a metal water container and are happy with it :)

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