What I Wonder When I Wander: Bottled Up Guilt

Posted on 17. Jun, 2012 by in Travel Reflections

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Welcome to our new Sunday series – What I Wonder When I Wander. The motivation behind this new series is simple. We really love providing you guys with first-hand experience, travel tips and hotel recommendations, but the fact is that becoming nomads is truly changing our lives. There are so many questions and observations that come up along the way, and we feel like it is important to share this, too. 

 This first post is about something that really makes us sick. Water. More specifically, bottled water. Around the world, where access to clean water can be scarce, we have to rely on bottled water if we want to continue to travel, but the number of bottles we go through each year is staggering, and my guilt is getting crazy out of control.

Water bottles (c) www.greenupgrader.com

Water bottles (c) www.greenupgrader.com

To be honest, I did not even want to start researching for this post, because I already knew what I would find. I knew the facts would infuriate me. And they do.

  • In the United States alone, people drink 9 billion gallons of bottled water per year, or 30 gallons per person.
  • 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic bottles annually – enough to fuel one million cars for the year.
  • It takes 3x as much water to produce the bottles than to fill them.
  • Bottled water requires less testing than tap water, and often there are no filtration or disinfection requirements on bottled water at all.
  • Global consumption of bottled water increases at 10% per year.

Wading through plastic waste

Way back in August 2010, Dani and I were in the middle of enjoying an amazing speedboat cruise through Sumidero Canyon on the Grijalva river in the Mexican state of Chiapas when suddenly the boat slowed to a near stop. National park workers were strategically placing large logs in such a way so as to create a path for boat traffic through a sea of plastic bottles. Hundreds, no, thousands of plastic bottles had all collected here, washed down from the towns beyond the canyon.  Wading through such a massive amount of garbage made a lasting impression (read about our experience here), and is the image that comes to mind each time I open yet another bottle of water.

If I had the choice, I would never drink bottled water again. Hell, at this point bottled water drinkers are the new smokers. It is absurd the way people carry massive water bottles while running errands, as though this was a Sahara, not a city with ample access to food, water and supplies. On a hike, playing sports, sure you need to water. But am I the only once who remembers filling up those green Gatorade sports bottles at water fountains back in the day? When the only bottled water was Evian, or Perrier, and you were being a big fancy pants if you drank that stuff? In fact, bottled water is a manufactured demand – watch this video for a great explanation. The bottom line is, we never needed it, but can no longer imagine life without it.

Plastic water bottles

An art project using plastic bottles | Mexico City

If I lived in one place, I would buy the right filters and chug tap water all day long. But as a traveler, we can’t exactly saddle up to a sink in India or Guatemala and start gulping away. Oh no. We would just incur the wrath of Montezuma’s revenge or Delhi Belly. We would be too sick to ever really travel. According to these facts, 80% of all illness in the developing world comes from water-borne diseases.

So how many bottles do two nomads really use?

This has meant drinking countless bottles of water, and the guilt is starting to overwhelm us. The two of us together drink, on average, four liters of water per day, or

 28 liters per week.

Assuming we only buy 1.5L bottles, that’s an average of

 18 bottles per week.

Being as conscious as possible, we try to buy 5L jugs or re-fill whenever we can, so let’s knock that down to 15.

 That’s 780 plastic bottles per year and over 1,560 since the start of our travels.

The image of Sumidero Canyon constantly flashes before our eyes, but the more we travel, the more we witness the way that the world is being buried by piles of trash dominated by plastic bottles. This becomes much scarier when you know that one plastic bottle will take 700 years to biodegrade. 700 years. The damage we are doing now is essentially permanent. Sure, people are trying to do their part, but in the U.S., only 25% of plastic bottles are recycled. And that’s the good news. In places like Cambodia, most recycling is left to the youngest street kids, who go around collecting plastic bottles discarded on the beaches or in the streets. Dani always saved bottles, packed up a backpack filled with them, and practically stalked these little kids to give them all our bottles.

Plastic bottlesHow is this healthier?

Remember Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway downing bottles of water? When we get to Europe or the U.S. after long stints in developing countries, I’m the same, only with my head – or in more refined moments, a glass – under the tap, slurping away. Tap water is more regulated than bottled water, anyway. It is cleaner and cheaper, all of which renders the entire exercise of drinking bottled water totally pointless.

So why is bottled water the second most popular beverage in the U.S.?

The perception is that bottled water is healthier than tap water, but that isn’t even true in places where you might expect it. In many places in Mexico, for example, tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but Mexicans are overly careful, making the country the second largest consumer of bottled water in the world, second only to the U.S. The Thai government now says that the water in Bangkok is entirely safe to drink as well, yet millions of tourists buy bottled water every day.

But the great thing about Thailand, is that the streets are dotted with water machines, which, for just pennies, allow access to clean, filtered water to refill 2L, 5L even 20L jugs at one time. This hugely reduced our plastic consumption – and our guilt. We saw similar machines in Malaysia, but no where near the same market penetration. Considering that bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply water, why are we not seeing more of these popping up around the world?

bangkok water machineBlame the tourists?

Tourism is not a root cause of this problem, but the industry plays a role in large scale pollution problems with plastic. The head of Cinque Terre National Park in Italy told the media last year that the influx of over 3 million annual tourists means 400,000 water bottles are strewn about per month in high season. Plastic water bottles have since been officially banned there, as well as at the Grand Canyon National Park, where no plastic water bottles are sold within the grounds now.

Hotels and guesthouses often offer free water refills, and some, like Campbell House in Malaysia, and Thai hotels Chaw-ka-Cher resort on Koh Lanta and the Bangkok Tree House all refilled plenty of glass bottles in the room each day so we bought less water on the streets. Many Ritz-Carlton hotels offer water to guests in ‘green’ bottles made of plant-based, biodegradable materials. Whether it is a guesthouse with free water refills or the Ritz Carlton, we are still at the mercy of each individual hotel’s policy, and still have to drink bottled water when out and about each day.

water bottles in hotel room in cambodiaTaking back power over the plastic

I want more control over this issue than that. The grand scale of my active role in this pollution makes me sick. Then I multiply this by the two of us, then by the hundreds, or thousands, of nomads out there not to mention millions of vacationers. My head starts to spin.

Just before our trip to India, our friend Shannon casually asked if we wanted to take her Steripen with us. Apparently Dani had heard of this before, but I was new to the concept. Essentially a SteriPEN is a portable water purification system, and is as small as a (big) pen. It uses UV light to kill the microbes that make you sick. Shannon trusted it enough to use it throughout her travels to India, but this seemed too good to be true, like anti-aging creams. We just didn’t want to take the risk, not in India for the first time. (For her opinion, read Shannon’s full SteriPEN review here .)

But knowing that we are headed to Mexico in a few weeks, I wonder if we should pick up one up to test out. If we could almost entirely cut out our consumption of plastic bottles of water, it would be a dream and at least partially help to calm down this incredible sense of guilt growing in my gut the longer I travel.

Plastic bottles

Plastic bottles piled up on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, where no recycling system is in place.

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69 Responses to “What I Wonder When I Wander: Bottled Up Guilt”

  1. I have trouble understanding Americans who solely drink bottled water. What the hell is wrong with tap water? I LOVE tap water.

    I seldom buy water bottles when I’m in Western grounds. The only time I relied on bottled water was when I was in Eastern Europe and didn’t have time to get my shots before I left, and tap water there is treated differently. But that’s it. Oh and maybe when I’m running errands and can’t see a fountain I’ll get a bottle. But I reuse it so many times after!

    Reply to this comment
    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      Hi Marie, couldn’t agree with you more! We very rarely buy bottled water in Western countries, and no matter what we re-use them for as long as possible. Americans are paranoid about their tap water – and on some levels, there are plenty of issues with water safety. However, bottled water is less safe much of the time. I really hope the tide begins to turn…thanks for reading!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Caz Makepeace

    17. Jun, 2012

    Great post. It really is quite sickening the amount of water bottles we consume. I’ve always been a tap drinker and I have my own water bottle that I use all the time if going out.
    Lately though I have been grabbing plastic water bottles from my in-laws fridge (I’m always shocked as to why they buy them) This post has recorrected my path back to my old, planet caring ways
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Expat Living: 5 things to do while Living in Japan

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      Caz – that’s the thing! It’s the sliding baseline concept, right. Things that people never would have done become normal at some point after little steps along the way become accepted. And when you are around people who buy all that bottled water, then you eventually start grabbing the bottles, too. Doing research for this post has really re-corrected my path as well!!

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  3. jan

    17. Jun, 2012

    Luckily I have a friend who is an eco cop. She gives me the evil eye if I use a plastic bag or bottle. Needless to say our whole family has stainless steel water bottles. I even gave one to my son’s girlfriend for Christmas!
    I read a lot of sailing books and they comment on how sad it is to sail into a deserted paradise only to find it cluttered with plastic bottles delivered to their beach/river by ocean currents.
    I am glad I did not see the bottles in the Grijalva River.
    We stayed at Manichan Guesthouse in Luang Prabang where they have a free water cooler for their guests to fill up from, and that is a Budget place. Good to see.
    jan recently posted..Fantastic Friday – Wallaman Falls

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      It’s definitely easier to pay attention to your consumption when you have a friend who is an ‘eco cop’, or when you hang out with like-minded, conscious people. There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses and hostels that do offer the free water coolers, and we couldn’t be more thankful when we find them. I wish all hotels would get on board with that!

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  4. Turtle

    17. Jun, 2012

    I have to confess that I drink a lot of bottled water in developing countries… I suppose I put my own health ahead of the world’s. But even awareness of the problem of empty bottles isn’t enough – I think you need local communities to come up with ways to help reduce the problem. The drinking fountains in Thailand are a great example of that!

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      I completely understand – it’s strange to say, but I think that I put my health ahead of the world’s to some extent as well. I need to hydrate, so I buy the water. If I could drink tap, I would. But in so many developing countries you would just be sick the whole time – definitely not healthy. I think awareness is really the issue – and developing a collective consciousness shift on the issue. I liked the article I found that said that water bottle drinkers were the new smokers. Somehow developed nations turned smokers into lepers within a decade – imagine if we could do that with plastic bottle consumption, too!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Maddy @ I'm Not Home

    17. Jun, 2012

    Thanks for an insightful article. You’ve really nailed what I, and many other travellers I’m sure, are questioning. I read some documentation in Rishikesh that exposed a lot of the Indian bottled water as being contaminated above accepted levels, so in some cases the purified tap water is better anyway. Although it’s hard to contemplate a steripen though, when the water that comes out of your tap is brown. The UV doesn’t kill off the terrible taste, either! Definitely an overwhelming issue. Well done for bringing it back into the spotlight!
    Maddy @ I’m Not Home recently posted..A sitar lesson in India

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      Wow, Maddy, I didn’t know that about the Indian bottled water! That’s pretty scary considering India is one of those countries were NO ONE wants to drink the tap water. And whereas we normally like to go with our ‘known’ brands, in this case going with a company like Coca Cola for your water is probably extra risky, since The Coca Cola Company is known to only use bottled up tap water. Interesting point about the Steripen, although maybe for Mexico…

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  6. Stacey

    17. Jun, 2012

    I’m from New Zealand and my home town has the best tap water in the world. Like you, it blows my mind when I see everyone walking around with bottled water in the states. It’s also weird to me that it costs more than soda in some supermarkets!

    I was in Tijuana last weekend, and there was so much trash on the street-most of it plastic bottles, and it really opened my eyes.
    Have you heard about the gigantic plastic rubbish tip that’s floating in the pacific ocean? It’s twice the size of the USA. I read an article about it today and you should definitley take a look. It’s between Japan and Hawaii and it’s this gross plastic sludge.
    Stacey recently posted..My heart still belongs to Chicago

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      Oh.my.god! I just looked up the plastic rubbish tip you mentioned and I can not believe it! This just makes me feel even more strongly about this issue. If this were a necessity, it would be one thing, but we have the technology and the knowledge to treat water worldwide if we wanted to. And the most ridiculous thing of all, just like you say, is we are paying MORE to drink water than other drinks, when it flows for free! Ugh. Thanks so much for commenting on this!

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  7. When at home I drink tap water – well unless we have another big earthquake and then I’m back to the bottled. When travelling especially in Asia though I still to the bottled.
    Katherine – Kapcha The World recently posted..Luxury travel and why you should Escape To Picton

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    • Jess

      17. Jun, 2012

      Exactly Katherine – when we’re in countries where it’s necessary to drink bottled water, we do…but we don’t feel good about it…

      Reply to this comment
  8. Trans-Americas Journey

    17. Jun, 2012

    Do it! We’ve had a SteriPEN since our journey began in 2006 and it got us safely through 18 months on Mexico (and the rest of North and Central America). We share your plastic water bottle guilt/confusion/revulsion and we can honestly say our SteriPEN has allowed us to avoid tossing thousands of bottles during the course of our road trip. Check out their newest model which recharges via USB! We wish we had that one–then we wouldn’t have to have guilt about throwing used batteries away…Here’s more about how to Drink Responsibly http://trans-americas.com/blog/2012/05/drink-responsibly-steripen/
    Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Civil War Gets Real – Suchitoto, El Salvador

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      Hi you two – that is really positive, and I absolutely love that it recharges with a USB. That’s such a logical improvement on the device, as it’s meant for mobile travelers. Thanks for the link to your post as well, somehow we missed it – it’s so revealing just how similarly we think on this issue. Seeing and smelling all the burning plastic on garbage heaps around the world really angers/confuses/repulses us to no end!

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  9. Reg of The Spain Scoop

    17. Jun, 2012

    I am also planning a trip to India, and was recommended by a friend who lived there for years (from the US) to get a water purifier pump. Thoughts? Is this like the pen? She said this is the way to go because they don’t recycle plastic there!
    Reg of The Spain Scoop recently posted..Tired Of Hoofin’ It In Bilbao?

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      Hey Reg – we don’t really know for sure about this as we were too ‘iffy’ on the whole idea when we got to India.But now, judging from many of these comments, it seems that some people really swear by the SteriPEN. We don’t know much about pumps – but I say if you can do anything to reduce the amount of plastic, and your friend used it, go for it. India is such a beautiful country, but it is absolutely covered in garbage. Doing whatever you can to reduce it is our duty as travelers, I think!

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  10. Laurence

    18. Jun, 2012

    This was one of my pet peeves when working in NZ, a first world country where fresh water literally pours out of the damn ground, let alone the taps. It boggled me how many people bought water in plastic bottles, and then just casually tossed the bottles and bought new water.

    I can understand in countries where the water isn’t safe to drink that this is an easy option, and health always must come first, but as you’ve shown in this article, it’s not even necessary anymore with technology advancements. I’m now going to go look up the Steripen, that is a great find!
    Laurence recently posted..In photos: from the Facebook Page (Edition i)

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      We haven’t been to New Zealand yet, but it’s just so confusing why people who live in countries with perfectly good water ruin the environment and waste both water and oil resources to drink out of a bottle…I love drinking tap water. It looks like we are going to check out the SteriPEN because I just can’t take all the waste anymore. You should too, and we’ll compare notes!

      Reply to this comment
  11. Great post! We’ve written about this a lot on GGT, and it’s one of the biggest issues facing travelers who want to “go Green.” If we’re in a destination where the water is potable, like our recent trip to Dominica, we’ll drink the bottle of water left out at the hotel, then continue refilling that from the tap the rest of the week. Also, ask if the hotel has a recycling program for their plastics and, if not, encourage them to start one. The more public pressure there is to go sustainable, the more businesses will have to do so to keep customers happy!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT- Saola (a.k.a. Asian Unicorn)

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      Hey Bret – this is a huge issue for us and we are so happy knowing now just how many other people feel this way about it as well. Sometimes, when we see locals throwing their bottles out of bus windows casually, or tourists sipping on small plastic bottles – knowing there are probably 11 more in a pack in the hotel – it’s just so frustrating. You’re right though about public pressure. The tide will only turn when it becomes unfashionable NOT to use bottled water, and fashionable to be sustainable. We’re definitely on board with pushing the issue!

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  12. Also, if you’re never seen it, TAPPED is an incredible documentary about the scourge that is the bottled water industry. Here’s a piece we did on it:

    http://greenglobaltravel.com/2011/01/12/eco-news-the-bottled-water-scam/
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..DOMINICA- Day 1 Photo Gallery

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      There are certain documentaries that I know about but really feel like I don’t have the nerve to watch. I have heard of Tapped, but I think it’s about time we watch it. In your review you are just as aghast as we are at the idea that most bottled water companies are just bottling up tap water and selling it. How did we collectively miss that point and cling to the idea that this was somehow healthier for us?! We’ll let you know once we get our hands on it and watch it! Thanks for this post- it’s very interesting!

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  13. dee knisley

    18. Jun, 2012

    Hi you two! I’m writing from SteriPEN. Your photo of the disposable bottle transport really hit home. One of our big campaigns is to reduce the amount of disposable water bottles unleashed into landfills. Each SteriPEN can keep 16,000 bottles out of the landfill. UV technology is what has been used for municipal water systems for over 100 years. We’ve just made it personal. The risk without a SteriPEN is both your health, and the environment. If you’d like us to ship you one, just sing out!

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    • Jess

      18. Jun, 2012

      Hi Dee! Thanks so much for stopping by here. I absolutely love the idea that using one SteriPEN can keep 16,000 bottles out of landfills (and streets, and garbage heaps, and rivers…) around the world. We’ll get in touch about testing out a SteriPEN for sure. The consensus in the comments here seems to be that it is the only way to go!

      Reply to this comment
  14. Ayngelina

    18. Jun, 2012

    It’s such a problem in Latin America as well which is why I bought a SteriPEN and I really loved it as well.
    Ayngelina recently posted..My newest chef crush

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    • Jess

      19. Jun, 2012

      We’re definitely looking in to the SteriPEN product now that it has so many positive recs here!

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  15. Normand Boulanger

    18. Jun, 2012

    I very seldom buy bottled water, mostly when no other option is available. I actually hate the product and what it is doing to our planet. So much pollution for something that is not really needed. The need for bottled water was created by the producers and people actually believe their lies about tap water.

    I also bought a Steripen for my travels to come in Latin America. I cannot imagine, and not sure if I want to, the amount of plastic bottles all around the world just for water. You know water is the only thing that is actually free almost everywhere in the world.

    Thanks for sharing this and for educating the world about this plastic plague. I will be sharing also.
    Normand Boulanger recently posted..Links

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    • Jess

      19. Jun, 2012

      That is the thing that is just so absurd – we are polluting the planet and making it even more contaminated to drink one of our natural resources, water, that we had been drinking since the beginning of time without the bottles. Ugh.

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  16. I wish there was a way that we could do refills in foreign countries – I just don’t like the idea of putting something in my water to kill the bugs – makes me wonder what bits of my insides it’s killing too! I have several BPA free bottles that I use everyday so would love to be able to use them but it’s just not practical in places like Asia or Africa unfortunately.
    Katherine – Kapcha The World recently posted..Chilling out with a cocktail in Minus 5 Ice Bar Queenstown

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    • Jess

      19. Jun, 2012

      Hi Katherine – BPA free bottles are great, but only if you can refill/drink the tap water in the first place, like you say. We haven’t been using any of the other water treatments like iodine because I don’t like the idea of ingesting it either like you say. We like the idea of the SteriPEN though, and hopefully will be testing that out in the coming weeks in Mexico!

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  17. TammyOnTheMove

    18. Jun, 2012

    This is a great post Ladies! I am all for reducing our environmental footprint. I wish all countries had these Thai water machines. What a clever idea. I have never seen them anywhere else.

    But although plastic bottles are hideously bad for the environment, some people actually rely on them to make a living. Here in Cambodia you see a lot of poor people collecting bottles and cans to sell them on again, so the environmental impact is not as bad here as in other countries I guess.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Another year older, another trophy on its way

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    • Jess

      19. Jun, 2012

      Hi Tammy,we actually mention the Cambodian kids in the above post…and while yes, they do have the chance to make a living off of it, there are plenty of other things the kids could do if they didn’t collect bottles (aside from getting to school!). Cambodia was actually one of the most frustrating places on our travels so far because there is just so much garbage everywhere, decomposing right in people’s front yards…so sad.

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  18. The two stats that trip me up every time are that 1.) bottled water is LESS regulated than tap water, and 2.) it takes 3x more water to make plastic water bottles than it does to fill them.

    Unfortunately sometimes it’s hard to find clean tap water while traveling (even if you do bring your own reusable bottle), but that doesn’t excuse the excessive use of bottled water in countries with safe tap water.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..An Insider’s Look at Prostitution in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      Christy I couldn’t agree more. The most disturbing stat is that it takes more water to make it than to fill it. The fact that it is completely illogical and wasteful gets me every time. Oh, and the cost per gallon is more than gas…but we complain about gas prices as a political issue and no one talks about bottled water at all. UGH!

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  19. vira

    19. Jun, 2012

    I didn’t know there was a drinking water machine where you could just pay some money and refill your bottle, in Thailand and Malaysia. That’s awesome! I’ve been carrying my refillable drinking bottle when traveling, but having a hard time finding water source to refill it.. so I have to buy bottled mineral water again and again.. :(

    Reply to this comment
    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      Hi Vira – yes defintely when you are in Thailand or Malaysia you definitely can refill your bottles and feel almost entirely guilt free!

      Reply to this comment
  20. Megan

    19. Jun, 2012

    I’ll be interested to hear the results of your SteriPEN experience. I’ve had my eye on the one with the solar charger for a while.

    It’s probably safe to drink, but the tap water here in Houston is yellowish and doesn’t taste very good. We were pretty excited to find that the water at our new house is (by comparison, at least) clean and delicious!
    Megan recently posted..Too hot in the shade

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      I can not believe that that water in Houston is yellowish!! We always think that water pollution is happening somewhere else, but there it is right in Texas. We’re going to post for sure about our SteriPEN experience!

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  21. Alex

    20. Jun, 2012

    Thank you so much for writing this. This is something I struggle with and for Earth Day I wrote a post declaring a personal ban on plastic bags. Well, the other day I found myself at the market having forgot my canvas tote. I thought back to my post and to the great amusement of everyone on the street I stuffed my purse as full as I could and carried the rest of my groceries in my arms! Ha.

    I bet in the same way simply writing this post will help you be more accountable to your goals. Good luck!

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      It’s funny, Alex, because I put this off for so long. I didn’t want to do the research, I didn’t want to know. NowI am so glad I did!

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  22. This is definitely a tough problem for people traveling when you don’t know if the tap water is safe. It’s nice to hear about those water machines.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Overcoming dishonest rangers to see bighorn sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park

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  23. Cole @ Four Jandals

    23. Jun, 2012

    Such a good post! It makes me sick thinking about the waste through plastic bottles. We travel with our metal bottles and refill them all the time. Loving Italy at the moment with FREE drinking fountains every few blocks where you can refill them. And it is ice cold water too. Ridiculous that people next to us buy bottled water when it is free in the tap outside! Aaaahhhh I am getting mad writing this sorry!

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  24. Chasing the Donkey

    23. Jun, 2012

    Oh my gosh.. I am guilty of this. MUST. STOP. TAKE. OWN. BOTTLE. MORE.
    Chasing the Donkey recently posted..Wind breathes life into a pig

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  25. Christy

    23. Jun, 2012

    “Bottled water drinkers are the new smokers”… I like that. I feel extreme guilt whenever I drink from a bottle of water and get upset with family, friends and co-workers who I see buying those huge packs of bottled water. Get the refillable 5 gallon jugs!!

    The thought process behind plastic and waste of most people astounds me. We have a friend who just visited and brought their child to a restaurant with us. They had a disposable plastic placemat that they use every time they go out to eat. We ended up not eating at the first place and the mom said, “Oh well, it only cost a dollar,” when she threw it away. My thought was NOT about the money she was wasting, but all that plastic waste!!
    Christy recently posted..A Hostel in Rome with Unrivaled Charm

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      Yes!! I know exactly where you are coming from. We were recently traveling with someone who kept throwing out bottles of water and buying new ones because the water got WARM. What an absolute waste it was and it frustrated us like crazy!

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  26. Holly

    23. Jun, 2012

    I took a Steripen on our RTW last year and it was AMAZING – so glad I found out about it. I used it throughout 2 months in India, in South America and SE Asia – once I even took water from an Indian railway station bathroom! No illness, nothing – just clean, safe water in a minute of UV light.

    They just need to improve their marketing because no one seemed to have heard of it!
    Holly recently posted..Checking in, checking out: Velvet Hotel, Manchester

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      Holly, that’s such great news because we are definitely going to try this out and are so excited about it! That’s really brave of you to test the limits of it in an Indian railway bathroom!!

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  27. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    23. Jun, 2012

    I just realized we don’t drink nearly enough water as we should on the road – only 2L a day between the two of us compared to your 4L.

    This is a great post! When we were in New Zealand, it was our first time drinking TAP water and it felt great. I really want to take a step towards reducing our carbon footprint and this post has definitely made me evaluating our bottled water consumption. A steriPEN sounds like a dream though I might not try it in India at first either. Will look into it though. :)

    Thanks!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Shanghai: Dumpling Duel

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    • Jess

      24. Jun, 2012

      Hi Kieu – I am glad you enjoyed the post.I definitely make sure to drink enough water no matter what, which is why I am so conflicted!

      Reply to this comment
  28. Carolin

    26. Jun, 2012

    Very informative post about a topic I’m incredibly passionate about!! Plastic is the cancer of our planet.
    Hadn’t heard about the SteriPEN before and it sounds like an excellent solution for my future travels!

    Reply to this comment
  29. Victoria

    30. Jun, 2012

    Hi Dani and Jess,

    I already mentioned that I love this post, but just wanted to let you know that I’ve added it to my list of ‘Most excellent blog posts’ for June.

    http://www.bridgesandballoons.com/most-excellent-travel-blog-posts-june-2012/

    Take care,

    Victoria

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      01. Jul, 2012

      Thanks so much, Victoria! Some great posts in your round-up and I am happy to see our post included! :)

      Reply to this comment
  30. Sabrina

    10. Jul, 2012

    That is pretty scary. I recently read that whine tap water is ok in many places, the problem is often old pipes in or around the house which add metal to the water. Other than that, the water tastes so terrible where I live that I can’t make myself drink it. Sadly! The compromise? Huge three gallon containers in the fridge at home and a water service at work that refills a big tank every week. At the gym, I refill my bottle with their filtration system. I rarely drink actual bottled water. Could I do more? Yes. But I’m trying to do at least a little.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      10. Jul, 2012

      At least you are making an effort, Sabrina. Most people don’t make an effort at all and just buy plastic bottles all the time. Oh, and do you have these water refill machines in Texas? We saw them in Arizona and I think they’re great: http://on.fb.me/S01bdR

      Reply to this comment
  31. Holly

    17. Jul, 2012

    Hey, just got around to writing a short piece about my experiences with the SteriPEN. Check it out on my blog here: http://bit.ly/ME5rMc
    Holly recently posted..The best thing I took RTW: my SteriPEN

    Reply to this comment
  32. Julia

    21. Jul, 2012

    Hello ladies again!! Thank you so much for writing this post. This was something I struggled massively with in India. I haven’t heard of the SteriPEN..it sounds like a dream come true. I hated,hated buying bottled water and wherever possible I boiled my own for over the minutes,with no problems or I used water purification tablets I had taken packets of with me. Just drop one or two of these wee lil tablets in a 1.5L bottle of tap water shake it around a bit and after 5 mins or maybe 10 voila drinkable tap water in INDIA!! I used them all over India with no problems. My guilt of plastic bottle mountains that I collected everyone of when I stayed in Goa for some time,working in The International Animal Rescue Centre there as a volunteer…really got to me. I saved them all up…but couldn’t find any where to recycle them. They eventually got burnt!! Not by me. Infact I collected every piece of food wrapping,partly cos of the recycling issue and partly cos of the hilarity of some of the packaging and was going to bring it all back with me…3 whole months worth to the UK for an Art project I had in mind to cover a Tuk Tuc with!! Hehe! For reasons I won’t go into here..I never got to bring all my rubbish back! Hmm but anyway I digress. Great article. I suggest water
    Purification tablets as an alternative too. But this PEN sounds amazing! Thank you. I will definitely be getting one on my next trip to India or wherever. You really don’t want to get Delhi Belly as I did the first time I went to India in 1995… It really is vile. My sister and I got it in Egypt too but the whole hotel had it…it was putrid,hearing the sounds of vomiting all night from neighbouring rooms,plus our own,not to mention” following through” in a restaurant in Sharm lololololol ! Oh the joys of travelling!! Thanks again xxxxx

    Reply to this comment
  33. Steve C

    25. Dec, 2012

    Just now saw your post on the water problem while traveling. I can’t believe that not one of the posts by travelers has mentioned that they used a pump/ filter system.

    Two of us traveled around the world for two years; never bought one bottle of water and never got sick because of bad water. We traveled with a small filter which had a couple of hoses and a small pump, all made out of plastic. It weighed about a half pound or so and filtered down to 2 microns (which filters not only bacteria but viruses too). We each carried a liter bottle in our day packs and made sure it was full each day as we left our room.

    I know it works as one time on a trek in northern Thailand, I filled my bottle using my filter from a stream. After I was done, I noticed there was a family of big black pigs taking baths about a hundred feet up stream. No problem!

    I’ve worked in the “water” business my whole life as an estimator/ project manager for a general engineering construction company. I’ve been involved with many water and wastewater treatment plants and know what it takes to make good water to drink.

    Although these new UV pens do work, you have to start out with pretty good water, that is no “grains of sand” or small chunks of anything. A spec of sand can look small, but under a microscope, it can really look like a chunk of Swiss cheese. All these little holes can harbor bacteria and viruses. UV only works line of sight. It’s like shining a flashlight into a hole. If the UV light doesn’t shine directly on the little critters, they’ll survive and you won’t.

    One thing about the filter is that it doesn’t need batteries or need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. The longer you use it, the better it gets at filtering as a layer of filtered stuff collects on the inlet surface and over time, it will filter smaller and smaller debris.

    So, I’m sold on traveling with a filter. You’ll always have an endless supply of free water. It’s a no-brainer! The only cost is to buy it to begin with. They’ll set you back for less than a hundred bucks.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      28. Dec, 2012

      Steve – you are right that there are surprisingly few people traveling with water filters or talking about it! I have to admit that I feel bad that it took us so long to start using water filters. We wasted way too many plastic bottles on our travels! Now, we are trying to convince people all the time that they don’t need to bring a small water bottle everywhere they go and how much better a re-usable water bottle is. SteriPen is great though – I was very skeptical about how much bacteria it can really kill, but so far, we’ve not had any problems.

      Reply to this comment
  34. Tap water does have a different flavour to it, though. When I’m in home in Sweden or Australia this isn’t a problem since the water is DELICIOUS! However in some countries (I think it was Spain? Or the hostel I was at, anyhow) the water did more harm than good to me when hungover. The taste of it made me throw up.

    I guess that is what cordial is for?

    Reply to this comment
    • Jess

      28. Feb, 2013

      Hm, Olivia, that doesn’t sound very good at all- though the water in Spain is fine to drink so am guessing this was something related to the hostel? Or maybe you got some food poisoning on top of a hangover? If you don’t like how the water tastes somewhere, however, why not squeeze just a bit of lemon into it? Makes it taste fresher and is good for the liver (to help after a night of drinking for sure :) )

      Reply to this comment

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Most excellent blog posts: June 2012 - June 30, 2012

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