Just when people thought they were being eco-friendly, and perhaps, trendy by buying a stainless steel water bottle, the New York Times released a fascinating multimedia piece on the life cycle of reusable bottles, and this is what it found.
It turns out that reusable stainless steel water bottles have a much greater carbon footprint than plastic water bottles. A few highlights:
- Producing stainless steel involves "a global supply chain involving more than 1,400 steps...For example, the mining of chromium ore, and essential component of stainless steel, can expose workers to a heightened risk of cancer."
- Because of the potential bacteria build-up, these bottles require you to clean them. If placed in the dishwasher, that uses electricity to heat the water, "50 to 100 washes can result in the same amount of pollution that was caused by making the bottle in the first place."
- Stainless steel lasts forever: It'll stay in the waste stream for centuries.
Now, what do people like me, who considers herself an ecologically conscious individual, meant to do now? Well, the worst thing to do would be to regret my purchase. I've used my Kleen Kanteen countless times and have had it for many years now, and can say that I have not had to purchase or drink bottled water since. But, knowing the power of a single stainless steel bottle is eye opening.
I do agree with the authors of the article about the best method: Water fountains. Also, tap water and a mason jar from home is always a good backup.